January 22, 2009 in Washington Voices

New park details unveiled

City will break ground in July
By The Spokesman-Review
 

In other informal business

Tuesday, the Spokane Valley City Council denied a Planning Commission request for more time to study proposals for changing city zoning regulations around the Felts Field airport.

The Planning Commission voted 4-3 against a staff recommendation for dealing with property owners’ complaints about density restrictions and 8-1 to ask for more time to find an alternative.

Council members plan to take up the issue themselves after hearing at least one more staff report.

A new Spokane Valley playground will use uneven terrain to create a level playing field for people with disabilities, the City Council was told Tuesday.

“I think this is a wonderful design,” Councilwoman Rose Dempsey said when consultants explained how people on rollerblades, tricycles and wheelchairs all can appreciate the undulating “Wavy Walk” as they make their way to the Big Horn Sheep Challenge.

Dempsey wondered, though, how something to be called Discovery Playground squares with the original concept of a “children’s universal park” inside Mirabeau Point Park.

Parks Director Mike Stone said he thought it was confusing to talk about a park in a park. Also, he favored a name that wouldn’t discourage use by people of all ages.

As exploration of Eastern Washington is to be the theme, Discovery Playground seemed an appropriate name, Stone said. After all, there will be an Elk Valley Picnic Plaza, Palouse Prairie Rolling Hills and a Salmon Art Wall.

Also, Stone said the proposed name will help people locate the playground, which will be on Discovery Place directly across from the CenterPlace community center.

Consultant Carol Henry, of Lafayette, Colo., based Design Concepts, said the park will include a number of elements that allow children to do things on their own. They can make music with chimes, drums or other outsize instruments, they can communicate across the playground through speaking tubes and they can tell time by using their bodies as the shadow-casting gnomon of a sundial.

They also can explore an herbal sensory garden, a fossil maze or look for the Secret Garden with larger-than-life objects such as giant flower pots, a swinging bridge and a vine tunnel. They can play on swings – some regular and some handicapped-accessible – or splash in the Steelhead Trout River Bed.

A class-size amphitheater will be available for teachers who want to present a lesson.

“I fully expect that this is going to be a destination site, and it will draw people from outside the area,” Stone said.

There’s room for more parking on the 2½-acre site if necessary, he said.

Henry said the playground was designed to fit the site, fit the needs and fit the city’s overall $1 million budget for the project.

Stone said it may take three or four months to prepare construction specifications and two more months to solicit bids and award a contract.

“We’re hoping to break ground in July,” he said.

Construction, expected to take five or six months, probably won’t be completed until early spring next year, Stone said.

Council members gave the playground their blessing, but took no formal action on that or anything else during Tuesday’s study session.

Other items on the agenda included a report from Deputy City Attorney Cary Driskell that Spokane County commissioners agreed earlier in the day to give the city until Dec. 1 to rescind its proposed cancellation of a contract for municipal court services. City officials just want to study alternatives, but state law requires them to give cancellation notice by Feb. 1 in case they want to establish their own court before 2014.

City Manager Dave Mercier said he was “very comfortable” the Dec. 1 deadline would give city officials enough time to complete their study.

The council’s relationship with county commissioners is frayed, but Deputy Mayor Dick Denenny – presiding in the absence of Mayor Rich Munson – said commissioners “understand what we’re doing in this particular case.” He and Councilman Bill Gothmann paid commissioners a fence-mending visit last week.

By consensus, the council directed Driskell to tell commissioners their offer will be accepted. A formal vote on issuing the contract-cancellation notice is scheduled next week.

The council decided to review all 17 of its contracts with Spokane County after commissioners recently announced they will cancel the city’s contract for county snow-plowing service in October.

County officials say their action was prompted in part by the city’s decision three years ago to hire private contractors for summer road work.

The council agreed Tuesday to act next week on renewal of a nearly $1.2 million contract with Poe Asphalt for summer street and stormwater work.

Other items the council agreed to place on next week’s agenda include:

•A request by the Central Valley School District to ban parking along Central Valley High School’s Rotchford Road frontage and along both sides of Long Road and Fourth Avenue at Greenacres Elementary School during school hours. The round-the-clock high school parking ban would support a new pedestrian gate on the back side of the school grounds, while the Greenacres Elementary parking ban is intended to improve safety for arriving and departing students.

•A proposed contract with the Beacon Hill Catering and Events for food services at CenterPlace. Although Beacon Hill would be the center’s official caterer, others would be allowed if they meet city standards. Beacon Hill was chosen among eight candidates on the basis of interviews and taste tests. Other finalists included Glover Mansion Catering, Azar’s Food Services and Catered for You.

Contact reporter John Craig at 927-2165 or by e-mail at johnc@spokesman.com.

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