For decades, neighborhoods in the Valley have offered families a quiet suburban respite, where the backyards are big and basketball hoops a regular sight along calm streets.
A handful of open spaces offer more public places to play, but as more mammoth yards are split up into smaller lots for new houses, the city hopes to set aside more parks to ensure future generations have room to run around.
“Greenacres was the highest priority in terms of acquisition,” said Mike Jackson, the city’s parks director.
With acreage on the city’s eastern edge between the Spokane River and I-90 rapidly giving way to new subdivisions, the city recently was promised a $300,000 state grant to help buy parkland there.
The city is finalizing negotiations to buy eight acres at Long Road and Boone Avenue, Jackson said.
In the next couple of years, the city will work on assembling the funds to develop the land, possibly with the help of another grant, he said.
The city owns 163 acres of parks, open space and undeveloped land. If the Centennial Trail and other lands owned by the state totaling 380 acres are included, it works out to about 6.5 acres of parkland for every 1,000 people in Spokane Valley.
By comparison, Spokane has 20 park acres – including developed and undeveloped parks land and golf courses, but no state land – per 1,000 people.
Last year, the Spokane Valley City Council adopted a 20-year parks plan that calls for 11 new parks and agreements with schools in other areas to bring the park system up to par with similar communities in the Northwest.
One of the next improvements likely will be better access to Myrtle Point on the Spokane River. The city owns 31 acres across the river from Plantes Ferry Park accessible only by trail. But as a residential development goes up on former industrial land next door, people eventually will be able to get there by car.
The city doesn’t have plans to develop the site as a traditional park; instead it likely will prepare the area for increased use, Jackson said.
At Mirabeau Point Park, the Legislature recently set aside $800,000 to build a playground that children with a wide range of disabilities could use.
“I think this universal park is giving an opportunity to a segment of the population that’s never had one prior to that,” said Mike Flanigan, a former councilman and member of the nonprofit group that developed Mirabeau Point and proposed the playground about 10 years ago.
The city will begin selecting an architect this summer, Jackson said. “We won’t start from scratch.”
Elaborate conceptual drawings for interactive toys and play areas were drafted before the city incorporated, and the city also will consult with a number of groups on the final design, Jackson said.
Flanigan said he knows of no other playground in the region like it, and Jackson said there are likely very few similar facilities anywhere for the city to look at.
“I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a parks director to get to work on a park like that,” Jackson said.
Meanwhile, Spokane Valley’s seven developed parks are getting a lot of use.
“The more the better. They’re great for grandmas,” Barbara Swanson said last week while playing baseball at Valley Mission Park with her grandson, 9-year-old Chase Naccarato.
A trip to the park for them usually requires a ride in the car, she said, but the tennis courts, ball fields and other amenities in the Valley area keep them entertained.
“I think it’s important that there’s things for all ages,” said Swanson, who’s brought her grandson to the park since he was 3.
The city will replace the picnic shelter and aging playground equipment at Valley Mission Park and make the park more accessible to the disabled this year.
Older playground equipment in other parks are in line to be replaced as their facilities are upgraded in future years, Jackson said.