April 14, 2011 in Washington Voices

Neighbors take over maintenance at park

Community steps up to clean Northwoods after cuts at county
By The Spokesman-Review
Pia Hallenberg photo

From left, Sam Ferris, Hannah Ferris and Tom Ferris clean up Northwoods Park on Monday. Two dozen people showed up with rakes, bags and brooms.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

The strong wind Monday evening made it a little difficult to clean out last year’s ashes from the barbecues at Northwoods Park, but that didn’t deter neighbors from going it at with brushes and brooms.

Chris Whittaker, who lives just down the street from the park, organized a neighborhood group to clean up and take care of the county park. About two dozen people showed up Monday evening to help out.

“I was just trying to see how many people would show up,” said Whittaker. “We had a meeting earlier, and then I created the Facebook page and put up some signs, just trying to spread the word.”

Word traveled quickly in the neighborhood around the park and Brentwood Elementary School, so Whittaker went ahead and incorporated Friends of Northwoods Park as a nonprofit organization.

“We may have to ask for donations to take care of the mowing and maybe pay for some watering,” said Whittaker.

Northwoods Park was at one point known as Brentwood Park, and some neighbors have lived there long enough to remember other park cleanups in the ’80s.

Whittaker said the county stopped watering the park last year and quite a few trees died from bark beetle infestation.

“The trees had to be taken out and I just felt like the park deteriorated,” said Whittaker.

The park is mostly a stand of tall pine trees with a grassy area facing Regina Avenue. It has a large picnic shelter and a playground as well as several picnic benches.

Siblings Sam, Hannah and Tom Ferris came with their grandmother to help clean up.

“We like to ride bikes here on the paths between the trees,” said Hannah Ferris, 15. “And we have a younger sister at Brentwood, so we felt like we should do something.”

Neighbors mostly picked up pine cones and branches – a whole trailer full – and other trash, as they worked their way across the park land.

Whittaker said he doesn’t blame the county for having to cut back on maintenance budgets, but he’s hoping to be able to negotiate with the county for some maintenance now that the neighbors are doing their part.

Spokane County Parks Director Douglas Chase said the park will be watered this summer.

“It wasn’t planned to be irrigated this year, but I have a few dollars left to work with groups of volunteers in those parks that are most impacted by our service reductions,” Chase said, adding that it helps the department that groups like Friends of Northwoods Park are willing to pick up litter and, in this case, take on the mowing.

The next step for the Friends of Northwoods Park may be to replace some of the trees that had to be taken out.

“I really hope we can plant some trees,” said Whittaker. “There were always lots of trees in the park, and that’s what made it so special.”

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