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Playground reopens with renewed spirit

Mindy Breen spins her daughter, Inga Mitchell, 5, at Discovery Playground, as daughter Uma Mitchell, 7, waits her turn April 17 (J. Bart Rayniak)
Mindy Breen spins her daughter, Inga Mitchell, 5, at Discovery Playground, as daughter Uma Mitchell, 7, waits her turn April 17 (J. Bart Rayniak)

Cameras, sensors, alarm aim to lower crime

The temperatures may have been chilly and the wind bitter that morning, but that didn’t stop several families from visiting Discovery Playground. The playground, which was hugely popular last year, opened for the season last month.

“It’s amazing,” said Anna Anderson, who brought her niece and nephew out to play. They eagerly ran around as Anderson trailed behind, trying to keep up. “This is such a cool park.”

It was Anderson’s first visit, and she confessed she was playing a bit, too. “That trampoline is so cool.”

Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone said a few things are different this year. “We haven’t had to change a lot,” he said. “We replaced a lot of plant materials that didn’t survive the winter.”

Two bright metal flowers also did not survive. They were destroyed when people climbed on them and bent their leaves. Two replacement flowers are there, taller and surrounded by a small fence to discourage climbing. “They are taller, stronger, better steel,” Stone said.

The biggest is an 8-foot-tall day lily with a hummingbird. It cost $5,000 and a shorter daffodil cost $2,000. They are not something that can be replaced over and over. “They’re not cheap,” Stone said. “If these do not survive, we will probably not go down this road anymore, unfortunately.”

Stone is essentially giving the public a second chance to enjoy the bright pieces of art. “They’re meant to be looked at and appreciated,” he said. “We really thought these were valuable elements. We wanted to make the effort.”

The struggle this year will be getting the plants established. Several were trampled to death last year. “That’s going to take some help from our visitors as well as Mother Nature,” he said.

Sharp-eyed visitors will notice a couple of differences. A brightly colored salmon that used to be by the front gate isn’t there. It was ripped off its base last year but was apparently too heavy to carry away. It has been stored in the parks department office ever since. The fiberglass eggs that were stolen and then recovered last summer also haven’t been put in yet. The department is working to figure out a way to install them more permanently, Stone said. “We don’t want to put them back the way they were before,” he said.

Some fencing will also have to be repaired to fix damage caused by people jumping the fence after hours.

With the theft, vandalism and after-hours visitors the park saw last year, Stone said his department would be beefing up security. The security cameras have motion sensors that will sound an audible alarm when activated. If that doesn’t deter people, the department may have to look at hiring overnight security patrols, Stone said. If drivers going by on Mirabeau Parkway spot people inside the park at night, they should call police.

“We’re not going to let this become an area that is vandalized.”