Tubbs Hill, a popular public nature park in Coeur d’Alene, ID, has served nearby residents as a quiet escape for play and exercise since its inception in 1974. Several miles of walking trails wind through the 120-acre park, offering spectacular scenery for everyone to enjoy.
However, not everyone was able to use Tubbs Hill. As of early 2011, the park had not instituted an ADA accessible plan, which limited the use of Tubbs Hill by residents with disabilities. Relatively gentle uphill slopes, downhill slopes, and cross-track slopes make travel much more difficult in a wheelchair. The small outcroppings of rocks and tree roots that most of the public simply step on or step over can be impassable obstructions to a wheelchair.
On February 3, 2011, an informational meeting about Coeur d’Alene Park’s ADA accessible plan for Tubbs Hill was held. Questions were asked whether this accessibility was really necessary.
The Tubbs Hill Foundation initially opposed any efforts to make the park more accessible, wanting to preserve Tubbs Hill in its current, natural state. Barbra Fillmore, Linda Wright and Barbara Zimmer of the Tubbs Hill Foundation wrote letters to the city and CDA Press stating how they wanted the hill untouched.
Other comments included Udell Long saying that “changing the hill for a small segment of the population (the disabled) isn’t a part of the Tubbs Hill culture. I can’t redo a parcel like this for 15 percent of the population.”
Shortly thereafter, the city held a follow-up meeting with the disability community to understand their point of view. DAC representative Patrick Blum was present and said the Parks plan was beautiful, he just asks that Tubbs Hill “be as accessible as possible.”
On March 12, 2011, a letter to the Coeur d’Alene Press from Virgil Edwards, a DAC IL Specialist, asked why it was ok to construct retaining walls, bridges, stairs and other man-made improvements for the public to use but deny access to people who use wheelchairs? People with disabilities, whether born with them or as a result of accidents, disease and in some cases war, should have the same opportunities to use Tubbs Hill.
Following his letter, Virgil Edwards met with Linda Wright in April. As a result of their discussion, a partnership was created to work together on resolving accessibility issues within the park.
To push matters forward, consumers approached DAC about advocating to get the accessible trail built on Tubbs Hill. DAC, including Virgil Edwards, accompanied a group of consumers who use wheelchairs to the park to give people a first-hand look at the difficulties they faced. The Kootenai Environmental Alliance, a main opponent to further development of the park, attended the demonstration. There was an appreciation developed by the KEA, and they agreed that people in wheelchairs belonged there as much as anyone.
The demonstration opened the eyes of people opposed to accessibility changes at the park, and in December 2013, Tubbs Hill opened its new ADA accessible trail. The park is now truly available for everyone to use.