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Helpers step up for park upkeep

County reducing service to cut costs

White knights are converging on distressed Spokane County parks.

Parks Director Doug Chase said this week that three or four organizations and a like number of individuals have expressed interest in helping maintain parks this summer.

Volunteers so far have targeted Sontag, Fish Lake, Pine River, Bear Lake, Camelot and the Liberty Lake regional and off-road vehicle parks. Park officials plan to meet with them next week.

“We’re very interested in seeing how they’re interested in helping out,” Chase said.

General contractor Ron Vandervert said he and a friend, excavation contractor Lance Pounder, would like to prevent some of the planned service reductions at Pine River and Bear Lake parks.

Vandervert serves on the Spokane County Parks Advisory Committee, he said, and Pounder is president of the Friends of the Little Spokane River Valley.

Vandervert hopes to recruit churches and service organizations to help at Pine River and Bear Lake parks, perhaps by renting portable toilets if that proves necessary.

Pine River and Bear Lake are among seven parks slated for the most severe service reductions in a three-tier system. Without private help, restrooms won’t open and drinking water and garbage service won’t be provided.

Nor will those level 3 parks receive the irrigation, lawn mowing, tables or electricity that a couple of level 2 parks will get.

Ten level 1 parks will receive nearly normal service except maintenance will occur only from June 1 to Sept. 15 instead of the usual mid-April through mid-October.

Vandervert fears unsavory activities will spoil Bear Lake if the parks department leaves the park open without the services that attract recreational users.

Eventually, Vandervert said, “if we don’t keep the parks going, they’ll put them up for sale. Bear Lake would be a private lake with houses around it.”

He wants to support swimming and fishing at the park by keeping the restrooms open and clean. Nearby businesses would lock and unlock the doors every day.

Vandervert proposes to keep Pine River Park attractive by closing it on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for irrigation, mowing and other maintenance.

Chase said county risk managers have decided that volunteers may mow parks if they use their own equipment. But such efforts must be well-organized and approved by the parks department.

“Typically, we don’t have mowing occur during the peak usage times to help minimize the risk to patrons,” Chase said.

He urged anyone who is interested in adopting a park to contact Park Ranger Bryant Robinson at (509) 477-6395 or brobinson