COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — A new pedestrian underpass at a popular Boy Scout camp on Lake Coeur d'Alene is already becoming a welcome improvement by both camp leaders and scouts alike.
The underground tunnel allows campers to walk underneath Highway 97 at Camp Easton. The road bisects the camp, dividing some cabins and activity areas from the rest of the camp.
Previously, campers were required to cross Highway 97 using a traditional crosswalk, prompting concern from some leaders at Camp Easton.
"It's been a load off the shoulders," said camp ranger Sean Weiler of the new walkway. One of Weiler's previous responsibilities included teaching campers a routine to look both ways before crossing the highway. "It's a beautiful transition and a much safer option for getting around camp."
Work on the underpass began in late April before wrapping up last month. Construction was administered by the Idaho Transportation Department and was funded by a more than $200,000 federal grant.
Leaders with the Boy Scouts Inland Northwest Council had previously said that no injuries or accidents had occurred at Camp Easton related to campers or staff crossing the road. Despite that, the organization didn't want to put off making improvements to the crossing.
Completing the underpass ultimately took more than a decade of preparation and planning work.
"Having a way for them to travel safe has allowed me to sleep a little bit better at night," Weiler said, adding that 288 scouts and adults are at Camp Easton this week.
"I feel like it's been a lot safer," said Kaden Passage, a boy scout visiting from Tri-Cities, Washington. "It's definitely nicer than trying to run across the road with the cars and stuff."
Sam MacDuff, also from Tri-Cities, echoed the remarks of his fellow scouts. "It's probably safer for most scouts who are young, like me," he said. "I really like it."
The underpass' completion now opens up the door for other improvement projects at the camp, said Weiler. Planning and preparing for the project had previously required much of the Scout's efforts. "Now our focus is going back to the rest of the facility and how we can improve that to make everybody's stay better," Weiler said.
In addition to improved safety, Weiler noted another aspect of the tunnel that is proving to be popular with campers.
"Whenever you get a tunnel that has a nice echo, that draws people to it," Weiler added as shouting scouts walking in the tunnel could be heard in the background.
"It echoes," remarked Passage of the underpass.