COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Construction on the multi-million dollar McEuen Field in Coeur d'Alene hit a road bump as workers must decide if they'll uproot a tree, which is dedicated to Veterans, in order to put in a parking lot. The controversial park project cost Coeur d'Alene taxpayers $14 million dollars and was one of the sticking points in the attempt to recall Couer d'Alene's Mayor, Sandy Bloem.
Veteran's groups are upset at the thought of losing a piece of city history, but city leaders want to assure residents that history will be preserved. Coeur d'Alene Parks Director, Doug Eastwood, says it was an incredibly tough decision to cut down something that has meant so much to the community for more than 50 years.
Commonly known as the "Freedom Tree," the conifer was planted in the 1960's to stop 4th Street from extending all the way to Tubbs Hill.
During the Vietnam War, a plaque was placed at the base of the tree for a local pilot who was shot down and captured. The pilot, Captain Fred McMurray, was eventually released, but the plaque and the tree remained, as a tribute to all local veterans. With construction on the McEuen Project about to begin, the Parks Department officials say the tree will have to be removed, but its legacy will live on.
The original plaque will be moved, along with the current Veterans Memorial, to a larger, more prominent part of the park. It will include seven flag poles representing each branch of the military, along with an American Flag and another to remember prisoners of war. The Parks Department says that, more than anything, they want to preserve city history for future generations.