In case you’ve been hibernating through the winter and spring, there has been a flurry of activity, events, decision and more that have already, and will ultimately drastically alter the way we experience our Spokane River, the way we interact with our Spokane River and the way we understand and care for our Spokane River. To the best of my ability and memory, here it all is.
*** First, and this is far from blog etiquette or effective readership retention strategy, I’m going to strongly suggest, er, require, that you all take a minute to click on this URL (open it in a new tab or window so you come back to this) and bookmark this blog, add it to your RSS feed or blog aggregator or whatever you use and follow “The #spokanerising Project” religiously. Not since the old days of MetroSpokane has a blog captured my attention, inspired my civic pride and optimistic outlook AND grounded me in reality than The #spokanerising Project.
Now, welcome back to this blog. Which could mean you’re coming back to this post an hour or so after you left and checked out The #spokanerising Project. I don’t blame you.
So here’s what sparked this thought. Last Sunday afternoon while I was resting following running Bloomsday, I was thinking about how packed that weekend was.
It started with the wildly successful dedication and opening of Huntington Park and the connected and “yet to be named” new Plaza near City Hall (more on this further down, and for the record, my suggestion for the name is “Michael Winslow Plaza”) on Friday, then carried through to the big Expo ’74 Gala on Saturday night and culminated with Bloomsday Sunday and the after-run festivities in Riverfront Park. By all accounts, it was one giant celebratory weekend in Spokane, filled with something new, something nostalgic and something as consistent as anything you’ll find in any community, anywhere in the world.
Then to cap it all off, Monday evening I attended a Spokane City Council meeting where by unanimous support the Spokane City Council approved moving forward on a $310 million dollar plan to clean up the Spokane River via new treatment technology and improvements at the Wastewater Treatment Facility, new infrastructure to minimize combined sewer overflows and even some stormwater management improvements that the city isn’t currently under regulation or order to do. Let me say that again. Spokane City Council voted unanimously to spend $310 million on a plan to clean up the Spokane River. Regardless of the fact that the current makeup of the council is more ideologically apt to do such a thing. Last I checked this is still Spokane, oh and it was a unanimous vote. Again, go look who’s on the council.
So let’s wind it back.
On Friday, the Avista Corporation formerly opened up the new and VERY improved Huntington Park, a wonderfully landscaped park that offers some truly remarkable views of the Spokane River. Huntington Park has always been a thing, but prior to this face lift, it was an area that though was accessible and open, always felt like you were trespassing when you went down there. Now, new signage and wayfinding, a new and additional entrance off the Post Street Bridge, the “front door” treatment provided via Avista’s gift to the City of Spokane and the people by way of the new plaza next to City Hall, and lighting and amenities all make Huntington Park inviting and intriguing. I truly feel that Avista went above and beyond with the design and implementation of this great park (great job Speed Fitzhugh). From a cultural, historical and spiritual perspective, Huntington Park is a great nod to the importance of that particular area, a place where generations upon generations of area tribal members gathered and identified as one of the most important locations in the region. So it was very emotional to be at that location on Friday with some local tribal drummers playing over the roar of the Spokane River, with this beautiful new sculpture looking over the Spokane River.
Here are more thoughts from “The #spokanerising Project on Huntington Park – http://spokanerising.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/huntington-park-and-city-plaza-officially-open-to-the-public/
Saturday brought the excitement and the giddy trip down memory lane (not my memory lane as I wasn’t even close to being born yet) with the big 40th anniversary celebration of Expo ’74 at the Expo ’74 Gala at the Spokane Convention Center. The Gala was a great reminder of what used to be at what Riverfront Park is now, and just how close this community was to living many more years, or even decades with railroad tracks and parking lots covering the Spokane River. It’s always great to remember something my good friend Dr. Bill Youngs (the official Expo ’74 historian) reminds people which is that King Cole would have felt successful in his efforts even if Expo ’74 hadn’t happened. For him, removing “those damn tracks” from downtown Spokane was a legacy enough for him. Good thing he didn’t stop there! Plenty of ink has been spilled on this topic already, and there will be much more to come throughout this celebratory year, so instead of waxing poetic on this topic, I want to direct you to some very good links if you want to stroll down Expo ’74 lane. And as you’re doing so, just remember how key the River and the environment was and is to all of this.
Below is a great rendering of the famous Expo ’74 Mobius Strip logo that I saw at the Expo ’74 Gala
Then of course Sunday was the iconic running of Bloomsday, which is special in its own right, and special to us here at Riverkeeper as so much of the run is within earshot of the Spokane River. But it wasn’t until after the race when I was walking through Riverfront Park that I really made the connection to the other two events of the weekend. Here is this beautiful and wildly used asset of a park in our community that for better or worse has remained somewhat unchanged for the better part of forty years. Now, obviously you know where I’m going here as you know how much Riverfront Park means to me and you know that I served the last twelve plus months on a citizen’s advisory committee to come up with recommendations for improvements to Riverfront Park. But it was walking through Riverfront Park seeing thousands of people sitting on the lawn, listening to music, visiting vendors, boarding the gondola, crossing the bridges and looking at the Spokane River then walking myself over to Huntington Park to see that juxtaposition that I really started to get jazzed about the prospect of a new and improved Riverfront Park. We as citizens deserve a beautiful, useful and one-of-a-kind keystone park in this community. We deserve a Riverfront Park that has the same wow factor as Huntington Park. And as long as I’m around, I’m going to keep working for that.
In case you need a reminder, here’s the vision of a new Riverfront Park – http://riverfrontparkmasterplan.org/
River Front Park – An Overview from Purple Crayon Pictures on Vimeo.
There is too much going on right now not to capitalize on getting Riverfront Park right. We’re seeing a tremendous amount of attention paid to the River, from everything aforementioned in this post ( including the capital projects for infrastructure that very well could come with improved River access, art and other amenities), to the work being done by the Spokane River Forum and others to improve River access up and down the River, to a new River experience at the Convention Center and likely Corbin Park in Peaceful Valley. Like it was for Expo ’74, the River IS the focus. The River is the attention piece of all of this.
King Cole set out to save downtown Spokane. To do so he needed to remove the railroad tracks and uncover the Spokane River. That was a pretty high bar to set. We as a community have rarely tried to reach that bar since. Yet here we are forty years later and I’m losing track of the number of projects who have already hit that bar and higher, or are about to or likely to. I don’t know how or when it happened, but this is a new Spokane. It’s time we all accept and embrace that.