It must have been like Christmas at the Rathdrum, Idaho City Hall: the local REALTOR® association had decided to make the small but up-and-coming mountain community the beneficiary of a Placemaking project, with support from the REALTOR® Party, as well as considerable volunteer power of its own.
Ali Taylor, association executive of the 1600-member Coeur d’Alene Association of REALTORS®, explains that her board was aware of Placemaking Grants, and wanted to find a way to use one to help a local community where its members live and work. They chose the City of Rathdrum, a growing city that was still small enough to benefit from the impact of a relatively modest project. Taylor and her board president, Amanda Kuespert, sat down with staff from the Rathdrum Parks and Recreation Department, and asked, “What can we do for you?” It didn’t take much brainstorming to land on a dream project with broad appeal: the creation of a storybook trail at the base of Rathdrum Mountain.
Taylor contacted NAR staff and pitched the idea, whose walkability and community gathering features made it a good fit for a Placemaking Grant. “The project’s intent is to provide children and their families, and even schools and daycares, a destination for spending quality time outdoors, away from the television and electronics, while being active and learning at the same time,” says Taylor. She also expects that the StoryWalk will attract visitors from beyond the City of Rathdrum, which could bolster local businesses, and notes that the trail will be a positive asset for REALTORS® to use in marketing the area.
The Placemaking Grant supported the construction of a gentle, unpaved creek-side trail on a wooded 540-acre plot of public land just a few minutes’ drive from the downtown Rathdrum, and several schools. The city provided the mapping and design of the trail, which features 20 cement posts installed along the path, specially designed to hold pages from picture books chosen by the local library. The books, whose pages are protected by plexiglass covers, will be changed four times a year. The ‘reading stations,’ as well as benches and a nine-foot high cement Bigfoot statue marking the trailhead, were funded by the Placemaking grant, together with another $2,500 pledged by the Coeur d’Alene Association of REALTORS®.
About 20 REALTOR® volunteers joined with city volunteers, Boy Scouts, and other community partners to clear the trail site and install the book posts over the course of about five days this summer. “We had a blast working with all of them!” reports Taylor. “It was a great collaboration, and many parties can claim real ownership of the project, which has been a real success.” The city built a parking lot near the trail to improve access, and has committed to taking care of trash removal; it is also providing an on-site ‘camp host’ during the trail’s open season to provide safety and information.
The City of Rathdrum organized a festive ribbon-cutting ceremony with the mayor when the trail was nearly complete towards the end of the summer, and in its inaugural season, the camp host reported 30 to 60 visitors per day. Several signs, one at the trailhead, a smaller one mid-trail, and a plaque on Bigfoot, credit the Coeur d’Alene REALTORS® with making it possible, and Taylor says that they’ve noticed quite a buzz over the city’s new attraction on local social media. “The project has helped us to develop a strong relationship with community members and city officials,” notes Taylor, adding “It’s been much more impactful than simply writing a check.”
To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho are using REALTOR® Party resources to improve the quality of life in their local communities, contact Association Executive Ali Taylor at 208-667-0664. To learn more about Storybook Trails, see Storybook Trails: Where Kids Can Walk and Learn at the Same Time.