August 12, 2008 in Opinion

Our View: New park could clean up a beautiful area


Whitewater facts

Where: One mile west of downtown in the High Bridge Park area, underneath the Sandifur Pedestrian Bridge.

How: Two U-shaped rock structures will be placed in the Spokane River bed to create whitewater waves. The project also calls for better parking, landscaping and a visitor’s center.

Cost: $1.2 million

Anticipated completion date: October 2009.

Citizen input needed: Public open house Thursday at 6 p.m. at the West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St.

Steve Faust, executive director of Friends of the Falls, was talking with Spokane tribal members at the site of the proposed whitewater park under the Sandifur pedestrian bridge. The area was sacred space to the Indians more than a century ago, when tribes from all over the Northwest gathered to meet, trade and feast on the river’s salmon.

It was 10 in the morning. A drunk man approached. High Bridge Park is one of the city’s most beautiful parks, but some of the people who hang out there have fallen on not-so-beautiful times. The meeting continued. The drunk man harassed. Finally, he went away.

Faust tells the story when he hears concerns that a whitewater park might change surrounding neighborhoods, such as Peaceful Valley, in negative ways. More traffic. More hanger-outers. More riffraff.

Faust says: “Most of the people who are into kayaking are in their mid-30s. Most are professionals. I haven’t met many kayak bums.”

The majority of the feedback about the park has been positive. Friends of the Falls, the city of Spokane and other supporters of the project are hoping for a good turnout at a public open house Thursday. They want to hear the concerns. They’ve listened to them so far. To create the artificial wave structure, the river’s flow patterns will change. The group listened to worries that trout and other fish couldn’t pass through the U-shaped structures that will be buried into the river channel, creating the park’s whitewater waves. In response to concerns, the plan was altered.

The whitewater park will definitely attract more traffic and more people to the High Bridge Park area. But its advantages will outweigh the negatives. It has the potential to attract more tourists to Spokane. It has the potential to spur a cleanup of the entire area. Unsightly concrete pillars, the remains of a Union Pacific train trestle, will be removed. And the hope is that the healthier atmosphere at the whitewater park will spill into High Bridge Park. This would help reclaim the park, a reclamation project that is long overdue.

Peaceful Valley, Browne’s Addition and High Bridge Park area residents should attend this meeting in force. A new neighbor is coming your way. It’s a good one.

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