Public places to play in Spokane Valley may become more numerous over the next two decades if the city implements the recommendations of a recently completed parks and recreation master plan.
The document, prepared by the parks department and a Portland-based consulting firm, outlines improvements to Spokane Valley’s park inventory. It also suggests adding 78 acres of new parks and 554 acres of new open space over the next 20 years.
“It’s going to come down to priorities for the community,” said parks and recreation director Mike Jackson.
In the coming months, city leaders will fine tune the plan and begin to rank projects within the suggested $5 million in parkland acquisitions. Specific sites for the new parks haven’t been chosen, but Jackson said it will be easier once the plan is in place to apply for grant money or go after a piece of land that becomes available.
“Given that land is developing at a fast pace, we’d look forward to acquiring one new park property in the next couple years,” Jackson said.
More immediate changes listed in the plan include renovating aging playground equipment and other facilities in existing parks.
The Greenacres neighborhood is one growing area where residents have been very vocal at City Council and Planning Commission meetings regarding park land.
“It would be great if they put a park out here,” said Kathy Tabbert. “There’s no place for kids to do anything.”
Her three children, between 11 and 15 years old, sometimes use Terrace View Park, she said, but it’s a five-mile drive from her house. She also said she’d like to see more fields for soccer and youth football programs.
The current draft of the document recommends that Spokane Valley raise the number of park acres per 1,000 people from 6.47, where it stands now, to 10.06 acres per 1,000, which is closer to the national average. It also recommends more sports fields be constructed.
Because larger parcels of open land don’t exist in many parts of the city, the plan also suggests forming an agreement with Valley school districts to add additional playground equipment and other amenities to six school playgrounds.
Central Valley School District, for example, owns about 80 acres that are not occupied by buildings at 11 grade schools scattered throughout the Valley, according to numbers provided by the district.
Many people take advantage of school playgrounds already. But officially adding them to the city’s parks system is just an idea at this point.
“We have not sat down and talked to the school districts yet,” Jackson said.
The City Council officially received the plan at its last meeting, where some council members also noted that schools provide many of the same amenities as neighborhood parks.
Other factors in the council’s decisions to acquire new park land include data indicating that most people in Spokane Valley are happy with the parks available.
A 2004 scientific telephone survey conducted for the city indicated that 71 percent of residents were happy with the existing parks. But in a mail survey included in the parks plan, 46 percent of respondents said more park land is needed.
While acknowledging general contentment with the existing parks, the plan recommends new land be acquired now to accommodate future population increases.
The plan is tentative, and council members are reviewing it for upcoming meetings. In the meantime, parks department officials are encouraging people to look at the draft and make their own suggestions. The council will hold a public hearing on the plan Nov. 15.