November 28, 2009 in Washington Voices

Projects could open river to more users

By The Spokesman-Review

Tim Austin launches his kayak below the Sullivan Hole on the Spokane River. The Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club would like to see an access developed just across the Spokane River, with parking and picnic tables.
(Full-size photo)

A potential project in Spokane Valley could give boaters improved access to one of the river’s best whitewater patches.

Chris Guitdotti, who oversees state land all along the Spokane River as the new manager of Riverside State Park, would like to develop a river plan that coordinates and prioritizes future projects.

One possible project is downstream of the Barker Bridge, on state park land off Flora Pit Road 0.7 miles east of Sullivan Road. That’s the site of another rock-roiled patch of water, called Sullivan Hole.

Terry Miller of the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club said the once-open shoreline there has been fenced off, and the club would like to reopen it.

With better access and a parking lot, he said, the area would be used 10 months of the year as different river flows alter the characteristics of the turbulent water.

Spokane Valley could have an all-natural version of the $1 million whitewater park another group, Friends of the Falls, wants to construct in the river near downtown Spokane, Miller said.

Currently, people must carry their kayaks about 300 yards along the Centennial Trail to reach Sullivan Hole.

“I would love to see a parking lot,” Miller said. “I would like to see bathrooms and changing rooms. I’d like to see a lot of things, but just rudimentary access would be great.”

Fly-fishing guide Stann Grater said drift boaters also would like access in that vicinity because the hillside at Sullivan Park is too steep.

The Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club would like to install stairs at Sullivan Park to make the climb easier and to prevent erosion.

“We have people in the kayak club that are not spring chickens anymore, and walking out at Sullivan Park with your kayak is strenuous,” Miller said.

Another recreational access project is pending downstream, on land Spokane County purchased when it rebuilt the Argonne Bridge. County officials needed the land for heavy equipment and hoped to trade it to the state Parks Department when the work was done.

The land – three lots along the west side of Argonne Road, from Maringo Drive to the river – could provide access to the Centennial Trail, which now passes under the Argonne Bridge. A spare sewer hookup would allow construction of a public restroom.

Deborah Firkins, the county engineer in charge of surplus property, said a state-proposed land swap was inadequate and the proposal seems to have faltered along with the state budget.

She’s eager to sell the property because it includes a house she has to manage. Still, Firkins has refrained from offering the land on the open market.

“We’ve lost a lot of capacity to deal with issues like this,” but the deal is “still in the works,” Guitdotti said. “Hopefully, we can get this back on the table again.”

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