The wildflowers are blooming in Black Bay Park.
But the dozens of adults and children who swarmed the rocky property Saturday morning were more interested in garbage.
They stuffed garbage sack after garbage sack full, and piled more debris in the bucket of a front-end loader that hauled it off to waiting trucks.
The effort to spruce up the timbered public land was the first big event of the Black Bay Development Committee, which has a vision for the 56 city acres on the Spokane River’s north bank.
“This is probably the first cleanup in 45 years,” said Jeff Schwartz, co-chairman of the committee.
“People didn’t know it was a park,” he said, adding that officials want to preserve the wildland qualities of the park.
City public works shops, gravel storage and the old city landfill occupy about a quarter of the property. The rest is hilly terrain, characterized by a jumble of moss-covered rock with Ponderosa pines towering overhead. A faint path meanders near the shoreline cliffs.
Closer to the edge of the old landfill, the ground cover crunches from the rusty old tin cans underneath.
“We pulled a porta-potty out of here with the tractor,” said a slightly muddy Ryan Shuck, 9. “This is my first time ever out here.”
Shuck found some stop signs to take home as souvenirs. James Gentry, 12, found a lizard and a wooden tombstone for Mary Hyland, born in 1857. He wasn’t planning on taking either home, though.
The park was the site of a sawmill in the early part of the century. The city purchased the property in the ‘40s. Attempts were made to develop the property in 1968, but instead it was leased to Idaho Veneer for log storage and later was used by the city as a landfill until the ‘70s.
More recently, Post Falls residents thwarted plans to turn the property into a recreational vehicle park and an aquarium.
Now, long-term plans include running and biking trails, an ice-skating rink (possibly an indoor one), sledding hill, playground equipment, volleyball and badminton courts, an archery range, basketball courts, an amphitheater, tennis courts, bathroom facilities, and a bridge across the small bay.
A master plan will be designed this fall with help from University of Idaho’s landscape architecture students.
“From there, we’ll have public hearings, and we’ll pull what we think are the best suggestions,” said David Fair, parks department director.
“We’re looking forward to that sled run. That will be a gathering place in the winter,” said Robert Pedersen, whose family joined others for lunch in the Post Falls Senior Center after the cleanup. The food was provided for free by the Post Falls Tidyman’s grocery store.
Completion of the park is seven years out, planners say. This year the city budgeted $5,000 for Black Bay, a fraction of the $1 million needed to develop it.
“Another purpose for this cleanup day is to let people know this is their asset,” said co-chairman Mark Evans. “One of the problems we have is money.”
The committee is seeking grants and donations for the work.