October 5, 2010 in City

Popularity upends calm of meditative Manito garden

Weekend crowds damaging plants, disrupting peace
By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photo

Nelson Antoniuk and his children Finley, 7 months, Piper, 2, and Lily, 4, observe the koi at the Nishinomiya Tsutakawa Japanese Garden in Manito Park on Monday. “Weekends can be crazy,” Antoniuk said. More than 2,000 people visited the garden Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

The Japanese garden at Spokane’s Manito Park offers a quiet, meditative experience – but not on nice weekend days.

On Saturday more than 2,000 people, drawn by the warm sunshine, visited the outdoor attraction, creating what parks staff described as a wall-to-wall crowd.

With so many people having discovered this small, manicured gem – with its garden waterfall, gurgling stream and koi pond – city parks staff are cautioning visitors to follow the rules posted at the entry:

• Stay on pathways.

• Don’t go inside the fences.

• Take professional pictures somewhere else – tripods are not allowed, although amateur photography is OK.

• Keep your dog at home.

• Children under 12 should be supervised.

• Take your picnic somewhere else.

“For the size of this garden, there are honestly too many people,” said gardener Nick Simchuck. “We are just overrun.”

The crowds are damaging trees and shrubs and trampling turf, he said.

A park monitor is on hand to ensure that rules are followed, but in recent weeks, that hasn’t curbed problems.

“Some visitors are getting quite aggressive to park staff, basically viewing the garden as theirs to do in and with as they please,” parks spokeswoman Nancy Goodspeed said in a news release.

On Monday, only a handful of people were going through the garden, and problems were under control.

Nelson Antoniuk brought his three small children with him on one of their regular visits to Manito Park.

“Weekends can be crazy,” Antoniuk said while stopping on the arched footbridge across the koi pond.

The city has intentionally kept the garden open for free, but charging admission is one way that crowd problems could be controlled, Goodspeed said.

“People are disregarding everything,” she said.

Only wedding parties that pay to use Manito Park are allowed to take professional photographs in the garden, she said.

The Nishinomiya Tsutakawa Japanese Garden was completed in 1974 and symbolizes the Sister City relationship between Spokane and Nishinomiya, Japan. It is also named after the late Ed Tsutakawa, a champion of the Sister City movement here.

The initial designer was Nagao Sakurai, who at one time was in charge of the Imperial Palace grounds in Japan.

The garden closes for the season at the end of October.

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