Wednesday, April 28, 2010

North Idaho Parks, Part 2

Besides State Parks, there are a number of excellent parks in the cities of North Idaho.  This series will cover a variety of parks in the area and this week we'll look at Coeur d'Alene's City Park.

Located on the north shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene and just a block from downtown, the Coeur d'Alene City Park is one of the most popular parks in North Idaho.  How the park came about is another interesting piece of local history.

Much of the land now considered City Park, North Idaho College and the Fort Grounds residential neighborhood were in the boundaries of Fort Coeur d'Alene, later know as Fort Sherman.  The fort was active from 1878 to 1898 and the town and later City of Coeur d'Alene built around it.  By the turn of the century the fort was decommissioned and officially closed on March 9, 1900.  Not long after that the land was auctioned off to the public.

One of the biggest local investors was wealthy lumberman Frederick Blackwell who came here in 1901.  Blackwell and his partners built the Coeur d'Alene and Spokane Electric Railroad and started hourly trolley service between the cities in 1903.  Like all good railroads, they built and promoted attractions to put passengers on the trains.  By 1905 Blackwell Park had become 20 plus landscaped acres with walkways, fountains, flowers and over 250 different varieties of shade trees and was one of the most popular destinations of the Inland Northwest.  A dance pavilion hosted a band five nights a week, and there was a baseball diamond, bath house and grandstand within the park.  In 1909 a fatal head-on train wreck brought financial ruin and the rail line was sold to the Great Northern and the park to the City of Coeur d'Alene.

In 1937 a Civic Center was built to replace the pavilion and was touted as one of the largest log structures in the Pacific Northwest.  Between bleachers and floor seating, the building could house 2,500 people.  In 1942, after the construction of Farragut Naval Training Center, the building became a USO where thousands of sailors relaxed and were entertained.  In 1945 it was set afire by a disgruntled (drunk?) sailor and burnt to the ground.

In 1942 Playland Pier opened on what is now known as Independence Point.  For 33 years the amusement park and rides were a bonus to those visiting the Park or swimming at the beach.  It burned in 1975.

Now, City Park is just as popular as ever.  At 17 acres it offers families a wonderful place to spend the day.  Fort Sherman Playground is a large, fenced area for smaller kids in the Park.  Free concerts are held in the bandshell on summer Sundays.  The basketball court was recently voted best outdoor court in the area by the readers of the Inlander.   There are picnic tables throughout the Park, a shelter can be reserved by small groups, shade trees make for a cool summer day and the City Beach is considered part of the Park.  The Park is a favorite spot to watch the 4th of July fireworks and is home of the Taste of the Coeur d'Alene in late July.  City Park is also home of Ironman Village the end of June as the start and transition area for the annual Ironman Coeur d'Alene.

Pack a lunch, bring the kids and spend a day at Coeur d'Alene City Park.

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