Years ago, when neighbors got together for the first time to clean up Palisades Park, they hauled out 22 tons of garbage, building debris, old toilets and car parts. Last Saturday, when residents from the neighborhood around the west Spokane park gathered once again to fill trash bags and pickup beds, they expected maybe 1 ton.
“We get together once a year, always around this time, and we clean up,” said Vic Castleberry, chair of the neighborhood association. “Today, the Parks Department helps us out a lot, but when I came to this area in the 1970s, I think they’d forgotten that they even had it.”
High on the list for cleanup was moving some BFRs the Parks Department had collected from around the park and gathered by the north entrance.
“Well, B stands for big and R stands for rock,” said Castleberry, laughing. “I guess ‘F’ stands for fun.”
Using a trusted old Ford tractor with a front-end loader, the rocks were moved, one at a time, to line the road leading up to the park.
Castleberry said one reason they’re seeing less dumping is that Rimrock Drive has been closed.
“There is a beautiful overview here, you can see the city and Mount Spokane and everything,” Castleberry said. “That used to also be an over dump, I guess. It was amazing what people would dump over the side there.”
On Saturday, it was mostly trash such as aluminum cans, plastic bags, empty bottles and cardboard that filled the white garbage bags.
Julia McHugh and Castleberry did scramble down the hillside when someone spotted a toilet and an old shopping cart. Using a rope and a pickup truck, they were pulled up onto the road and hauled out of the park.
“It’s sure a good thing it’s not too hot today,” Castleberry said, dusting off his jeans after the climb.
Palisades Park is a natural area just north of Indian Canyon Park and Golf Course, west of Greenwood Memorial Terrace. It’s been part of the city’s parks system since the $1 million park bond in 1910 allowed the city to purchase and preserve park land.
A large variety of wildlife and birds can be spotted along miles of nature trails and little wetlands, and Palisades Park is a favorite among locals for hauling their horses in for trail rides.
One special project at this year’s cleanup was the thinning of volunteer pine trees and other overgrowth.
Working with the Spokane Conservation District, the neighborhood association has submitted a forestry plan for the park, neighbor and volunteer Craig Volosing said, adding that nature parks like Palisades need just as much upkeep as manicured parks like Manito Park.
“The park is completely overgrown. It’s a huge fuel loading just waiting for a disaster to happen,” Volosing said. “Not only would the smaller trees feed a wildfire, they also make it so the viable timber, that could be harvested and sold to help pay for park maintenance, can’t grow and mature.”
Volosing, who also moved to the area in the 1970s, said it’s the fifth year they’ve been thinning the forest as part of the cleanup day.
“We are making a dent,” Volosing said. “It may be hard to tell sometimes, but this cleanup does make a difference.”