At a cost of $1 million in grant money, Spirit Lake got new sidewalks and a new Maine Street/ Ralph Bartholdt
An informal survey last year showed that the majority of people who visited Spirit Lake, Idaho - a small gem of a town perched at the edge of its namesake lake - spent their time and money along the HWY 41 corridor and didn't venture into the heart of town.
The heart of town for most people who have been here is known for its few bars and the parked motorcycles in front of them leaning in fleetlike-like array as if at a hitching post.
In addition to a couple of eateries, a smattering of storefronts lined the town's cracked sidewalks and crumbling buildings.
This summer, though, a hefty $1 million makeover prevented tourists and passers by from accessing downtown.
Equipment beeped and groaned as workers dug, pounded and finished concrete while the former Maine Street disappeared and a new one formed.
The streets and sidewalks were replaced, and the work has left the town with a new, cleaner feel.
Whether the upgrades will funnel more business downtown is food for thought.
And local residents are taking seconds.
"I'm not sure if it will make a difference in the economy or attract people to downtown," area resident Chuck Gruenwald told the Coeur d'Alene Press.
Others think the improvements will attract visitors.
"We believe this will bring more tourism to our area," said Jeanne Bruner, president of the Spirit Lake Chamber of Commerce.
What goes unsaid is that other towns in similar predicaments - the disappearing of their tax base as the timber economy is shut down and sent elsewhere - haven't fared better despite main street upgrades.
St. Maries, 80 miles to the south, and the ever famous Potlatch, Idaho two hours away, are precious examples.
Having said that, Spirit Lake is still a great place to visit, buy some pottery at Sondahl's local shop, have a cup of Joe at the Books and Coffee and stop by the gift, second-hand and ice cream shops downtown.
For more of this story go here: http://www.cdapress.com/news/local_news/article_c3006c2b-623c-5c93-9d12-018ecea94ac0.html
Agent Keller Williams Coeur d'Alene