A rainbow arch leading to the Grant Park play area is symbolic of the diversity and community spirit in this ethnically mixed section of southeast Spokane.
Neighbors living near the park spent two years working to improve the play area and the park’s landscaping.
Installing the arch was one of their ideas.
Last month, the city Parks Department turned on water for a new children’s spray pool. It replaces an old wading pool that had fallen into disrepair years ago.
The spray pool features a concrete stream leading from the spray area. The pool now is closed for the season.
Still, neighborhood children flock to the new “tot lot” play area, said Lisa Knight, who helped spearhead the drive to improve Grant Park.
The landing surface below a new climbing area is cushioned with a pliable synthetic material covered with bark to reduce the risk of injuries from falls.
“It’s so nice now,” said Knight. “I see the kids up there. It’s 100 percent better.”
Knight helped form the Friends of Grant Park group and served on a city advisory committee to help design park improvements.
The park did not have picnic tables before, she said. Now it does.
The park had trouble with gang activity and crime, Knight said. New lighting and driveway improvements were added to discourage illegal activity at night.
Some 30 neighbors became involved in the effort after they learned the city was holding about $35,000 in reserve for Grant Park improvements.
That money came from a bond issue approved by voters in 1987 and was supposed to be spent on wading-pool renovations.
Mike Stone, a city parks manager, said the wading pool was beyond repair, and the city couldn’t afford the $150,000 cost of a new pool.
So the city worked with the neighbors to decide what should be done to improve the park.
The project budget was more than $125,000. The city contributed $95,000. Another $35,000 came from federal community development funds.
Stone said the spray pool is the only one of its kind in Spokane because of the streambed running away from it.
“This is a rather unique play area,” Stone said.
The project was supposed to be finished in June, but its opening was delayed when the Spokane County Health District spent several weeks inspecting the project to make sure it would not be hazardous, Stone said.
During construction last spring, a group of neighbors spent the night sleeping in the park to guard newly delivered playground items until they were installed.
Now, the neighborhood group is working to renovate the tennis courts and add basketball courts, Knight said.
Having a nice park has rewards that extend beyond its borders, she said.
“It increases the value of our homes to have a nice children’s play area,” she said.