A Persistent Life

Scott Reed won more cases than he lost in life, and the beauty of the Coeur d'Alene area has been the beneficiary

After a lifetime of work, play, learning and loving, my best friend and roommate has moved on — perhaps to a place where wise souls gather to plot their next adventures.

My husband Scott Reed grew up as the only child of two very sharp, strong-minded parents. From an early age he learned if he could just make them laugh, he could please both mother and father and help them to please each other. He developed a signature tool that carried him through life — an ever-present, ever-probing wit.

His father taught him to fish, to hunt birds, to adore life outdoors. From his mother he learned to plant seeds in the earth and the joy of bringing them to harvest. On his own, he masterminded a number of teenage escapades that caught the attention of the authorities. He had to spend a little time apologizing for the pranks, but never went to jail.

We had our first date when I was 15. By then it was time for him to go off to Princeton. We wrote, phoned, talked constantly throughout our college years, but didn't get serious until he came home from fighting in the Korean War. We married, eight years after that first date.

As soon as Scott finished law school, we set off together to find a place that had room for another lawyer. We rolled into Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, one balmy June day in 1955, rented a boat, rowed to the middle of Casco Bay and jumped in. Climbing out of the delicious water, we told each other: This is it. This is the place.

We never regretted that decision. A local Wildlife Federation guy named Art Manley discovered Scott and drew both of us into the nature appreciation meetings at the Eagles. Art became a lifelong mentor, colleague and friend.

In the late '50s, Art and his cronies were concerned about an upcoming vote to decide whether or not to allow a shopping mall to be built where McEuen Park now lies. Their overarching goal was to keep Tubbs Hill in its natural, undeveloped state. Scott joined in the successful effort to defeat the shopping mall and remained committed for life to keeping Tubbs Hill the small corner of wilderness that it is, right in the center of town on the edge of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Art Manley launched the crusade to acquire Tubbs Hill for the public. Decades later, Scott led the effort to acquire the final crucial acres. Scott's book, The Treasure Called Tubbs Hill, recounts the long struggle to save it. Many other dedicated local residents have been involved in the process of acquiring and protecting Tubbs, just as countless volunteers and supporters united to turn McEuen Field into the amazing park it is today.

Scott served on a long list of boards and commissions: the Coeur d'Alene Planning Commission, the North Idaho College Board of Trustees, boards of the Idaho Nature Conservancy Board, the Western Environmental Law Center, the Land and Water Fund, 12 years on the Idaho Water Resource Board, 18 years on the board of the National Audubon Society Board.

But it was in his daily practice of law that Scott's impact was felt most keenly. The lights in his office were on from dawn to dusk.

He loved the law, and he worked it. He won some cases that benefited lakes and streams. He lost some, too — the most painful was the failed attempt to keep all of Sanders Beach, on the east side of the city of Coeur d'Alene, open to the public. Sometimes losing was winning — the Public Trust doctrine was established for Idaho in a losing case.

On behalf of clients, Scott constantly sued the Idaho Department of Transportation for sloppy road building that sullied streams or damaged lake waters. One of the happiest conclusions to a lawsuit was the agreement by the state to build and maintain the trail along the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene. This settlement came after the Department of Transportation dropped a couple of bulldozers into Lake Coeur d'Alene while upgrading I-90.

In his last years, Scott's body let him down. No more backpack trips into the Sawtooth Wilderness, or ski trips to Schweitzer, or bicycling on the Centennial Trail. But to the end, he loved sitting by a crackling fire with a cold beer in hand, exchanging stories with friends.

Scott's gift to the Idaho environment was his steady devotion. He was brainy, he was skilled, but above all he was committed. There was a saying in our house: "It doesn't matter how smart you are, it's persistence that counts." Scott persevered. ♦

Scott Reed passed away on May 2 at the age of 87. Mary Lou Reed served 12 years in the Idaho Legislature and writes a monthly column in this space.

Get Lit! 2021

Through April 18
  • or

About The Author