It’s a jungle gym out there

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LOREN BENOIT/Press A Hooligan Island floating fun center is seen anchored off City Beach on Tuesday. The city of Coeur d’Alene has requested the owner move the float by the end of the week to abide by the city’s jurisdiction and permitting process.

By RALPH BARTHOLDT

Staff Writer

COEUR d’ALENE — Clint Kauer’s avant-garde aquatic play piece has gotten people in a dither.

But Clint just wants to have fun.

His Hooligan Island floating fun center, anchored in the lake near City Beach since last week, is supposed to allow others to share his merriment.

Instead, the Dalton Gardens trampoline-builder has gotten nothing but grief since he towed the floating fun area into city waters, he said.

“They are pissed,” Kauer said. “They want me to move it.”

In some way he understands the ire of the city, the Idaho Department of Lands and neighbors living along Coeur d’Alene’s beachfront.

“People weren’t happy with it,” said Bill Greenwood, director of the city’s parks and recreation program. “They called it ugly and said it was an eyesore.”

Parks and Rec employees fielded some of the calls, and complaints were also reported at the state lands department — which monitors state waters.

“There were questions about what’s going on?” Greenwood said.

Kauer gets it.

The fun center isn’t exactly a work of art, but its purpose is to spur delight, not indignation.

Kauer is in the fun business. He builds trampoline parts at his Dalton Gardens business, and latched on to the aquatic jungle gym idea as sort of a sideline. He built one of the floating fun centers — which weighs 7,500 pounds and can hold up to 40,000 pounds or a passel of playful youngsters — a while back and sold it at Lake Havasu in Arizona. That’s how much people there liked it, he said.

“You can have 50 to 75 kids on it at one time,” Kauer said. “There are two trampolines, a water slide” and more.

But that doesn’t matter at the moment to officials who are trying to figure out just how the floating vessel — it is designated a watercraft — fits into local ordinances and state laws.

“We regulate all activities over the beds and the banks,” said Jim Brady, Department of Lands resource supervisor. “If there’s encroachment, they have to deal with us.”

The department generally permits things such as docks, landings, bridges and utility lines, but the fun center floats like a boat and is temporarily at anchor.

“We’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do with this,” Brady said.

The city’s jurisdiction is within 1,000 feet of its shore and if someone wants to do business within those limits, they likely fall under the city’s permitting process.

Greenwood said floating fun centers have recently drifted onto the scene, but he foresees a flood of them in the future. This year alone, he has received separate inquiries from three vendors including Kauer.

“This year we’ve got Hooligan Island, and another one called Tarzan Boat and months back we got (a request) from Treasure Island, and last year it was Hover Craft,” Greenwood said. “All of these folks want to do a water-based business.”

But, owners who have met with the city couldn’t answer basic questions, he said. They did not know how customers would reach the floating islands from the beach, or what kind of certification their lifeguards had.

Pool and open-water lifeguards require different certifications, Greenwood said, and open-water guards are hard to find.

In addition, the business could be required to enter a bid process, especially if they had a kiosk in the park to sell tickets to the floating jungle gyms. They must also be vetted by police, the fire department, parks and rec and the City Council.

“To see if they like the idea,” he said.

In his 18 years as parks and rec director, Greenwood has not seen such a surge of waterborne vendors.

“It’s kind of a new twist,” he said.

Kauer said he plans to move Hooligan Island at the request of the city and the Department of Lands, although he feels he has legal authority to set up in front of City Beach, and charge $12 for kids to jump, slide and splash from his watercraft — even if he has to move it outside city limits.

But, he isn’t here to make waves, he said.

“It’s still rather cold,” he said.

Before moving it back, he’ll wait for the weather and the atmosphere surrounding his fun center to warm up, he said.

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