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Low Ranking Stymies Ben Burr Park Plan

Plans to develop eight acres of city park land at 43rd and Havana are being put on hold for the fourth year in a row, city officials said this week.

The Spokane Parks and Recreation Department bought land for Ben Burr Park in 1991 and worked with residents the following few years to plan a design for development.

Neighbors said they want a park that will serve the nearby area rather than become a big attraction for the South Side.

“That was the feeling of the neighborhood,” said Lora Biondi, who lives adjacent to the site.

A natural area, playfield, basketball court, picnic shelters and restrooms are included in the plans to be consistent with a small neighborhood park, officials said.

So far, they don’t have anything except a natural area.

Since 1993, the city has been seeking state funding to help offset half of the $640,000 cost of the project.

Ben Burr has been the city’s highest priority for state funding each of the past four years, said Paul Crutchfield, assistant park director.

City parks officials have traveled to Olympia in each of those years, including as recently as August, to plead for Ben Burr, Crutchfield said.

Last month, the state’s Interagency Committee on Outdoor Recreation ranked the Spokane project 30th out of 61 proposals submitted for local parks statewide.

Crutchfield said that ranking will be too low for the Ben Burr project to qualify now for a limited pool of state money.

Parks officials are reluctant to pay the full cost as long as there is a chance that state money would be available to pay half, Crutchfield said.

“We definitely need that park,” he added.

The next nearest parks are a mile and half away or more, including Thornton Murphy Park at 28th and Ray and the South Side Sports Complex at 46th and Regal.

Children in the neighborhood must follow busy arterials that have no sidewalks to reach the other parks, Crutchfield said.

Plans call for installing sidewalks, curbs, parking and lighting at the park. No wading or spray pools are planned.

The park site was assembled from two acres of land purchased from a nearby church and six acres purchased from the developers of the Echo Glen subdivision.

, DataTimes