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Watch where you park

Sat., June 30, 2007

Red, white and blue, the colors most associated with Independence Day, are also the colors of law enforcement. Anyone celebrating recklessly in the Spokane Valley is apt to experience the latter this Wednesday.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office this week put the community on notice that officers will be aggressively handing out parking tickets around Liberty Lake on July 4. Thousands of people flock to Liberty Lake every Independence Day. The small community offers everything from a homespun neighborhood parade on the west end of the unincorporated lake area, to evening concerts at Pavillion Park in the town proper, to lake fireworks.

Liberty Lake and the Spokane Indians baseball game at Avista Stadium are home to the only two Valley Independence Day fireworks displays. While there’s plenty of parking at Avista Stadium, the lake has been knotted with illegally parked cars in years past, making it nearly impossible for emergency vehicles respond to mishaps.

In 2005, two men launching the community’s fireworks from a barge in the middle of the lake were injured by a delayed explosion. Cars parked bumper to bumper along the roadside made travel difficult for emergency vehicles. Sheriff’s Sgt. Dave Reagan said conditions weren’t any better in 2006.

“Problems with emergency medical access at Liberty Lake during last year’s fireworks celebration led to parking restrictions that will be put in place this year,” Reagan said. “In some areas, one side of the roadway will be posted ‘no parking’ to ensure that fire equipment and ambulances can gain access.”

The fireworks are visible from Pavillion Park, where special parking arrangements have been made for people planning to catch the two New Orleans-based bands performing July 4, as well as the big blast at 10 p.m. The show featuring Marcia Ball and The Dirty Dozen Band, is free to the public.

Pavillion Park volunteer Rand Hatch said a free shuttle service will be offered to anyone parking at Liberty Lake Elementary, where room is ample. Parking at the Pavillion Park lot will be open only to the elderly, disabled and concert performers. The music starts at 4 p.m.

“Typically we have a couple thousand people attend,” Hatch said.

Concert organizers are encouraging people to carpool and also reminding everyone to be courteous. Alcohol is not allowed in the park. Picnics are welcome, but food and beverages are sold on site. Anyone bringing a tall folding chair should be polite and sit in the back. Low chairs are OK closer to the front, but be courteous, Hatch said. After the show, the shuttle will return concert goers to the elementary school parking lot.

Liberty Lake has had its own parking issues during big events. During the community’s citywide yard sale this spring, police issued 22 parking tickets in a matter of hours to people parked in the bike lane on Country Vista Drive. Pavillion Park touches the intersection of County Vista Drive and Molter Road.

Throughout Spokane Valley, police will be on fireworks patrol Wednesday. Spokane Valley Fire Department investigators will be riding with sheriff’s reserve deputies looking for fireworks violations. Fireworks are illegal to buy, sell or light in the unincorporated areas of Spokane County, as well as incorporated cities, with the exception of Airway Heights, Deer Park, Fairfield, Latah, Medical Lake, Rockford, Spangle and Waverly where some fireworks are legal.

The fine for illegal fireworks within Spokane County can be as much as $1,000. It is unlawful in Washington to use fireworks in a reckless manner that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury or a risk of damage to property.

In Idaho, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls also have restrictions on certain types of fireworks. The Coeur d’Alene Police Department says the biggest complaints involve fireworks landing on roofs and the noise. Violation of the fireworks code is considered a misdemeanor and subject to a $300 fine.


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