For Tony Robinson, a new pedestrian bridge that links People’s Park to the West Central neighborhood has introduced him to a whole new place to walk his dog T.J.
And the view from the bridge and the north bank of the Spokane River is incredible, he said.
“It’s amazing how it opens up your access to the city,” Robinson said. “It’s just unbelievable.”
More than a dozen years after the project first was funded, the Sandifur Memorial Bridge opened last week. It is the final river crossing needed to complete the Centennial Trail, a 37-mile trail from the Idaho state line along the Spokane River.
The project will allow the Centennial Trail to eventually hook up with an 11-mile city trail to Fish Lake, and another trail that is planned to connect to the Tri-Cities. From People’s Park, the bridge crosses the river and connects with a short path that winds to Summit Boulevard and Ohio Street.
“This is a great relief to have it complete,” said Clyde Anderson, a state Parks and Recreation Commission member who has been active in the effort to complete the trail.
The bridge was first funded in 1991 with a $488,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service that required that the bridge be constructed of wood. Hang-ups over the location of the bridge delayed construction and the price tag increased to $2.5 million.
The state pitched in almost $1 million. Several other groups made up the difference, including $172,000 given by Metropolitan Mortgage before the company declared bankruptcy this year.
The bridge is named after the founder of Metropolitan, C. Paul Sandifur Sr., and his wife, J. Evelyn Sandifur.
“Without the support of the Spokane community, we would not have that bridge,” said Kaye Turner, executive director of the Friends of the Centennial Trail.
On Saturday, several people already had found their way to the bridge, even though it won’t be dedicated until Nov. 8.
Having crossed the bridge, many people meandered to the riverbanks along the parks on both sides of the river.
Robinson said he’s hopeful that traffic from the bridge will cut down on questionable behavior at People’s Park.
“I’m very much excited, and look at all the people already,” Robinson said.
Kay Howard, co-chair of the West Central Neighborhood Council, said residents there are hopeful the trail will cut down on crime in the West Central side of the river, too.
“It really opens it up and we’ll be able to have more people enjoying it because it is a gorgeous area down there,” Turner said. “It’s just the start of good things to come.”