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$1 million grant to help pay for YMCA site

The sun was shining Tuesday on Spokane County’s Conservation Futures program if nowhere else.

County commissioners learned that a grant will reduce the cost of the YMCA site in Riverfront Park and that a family will provide a free trailhead parking lot for the Antoine Peak Conservation Area for at least two years.

Parks Director Doug Chase said Olaf and Alice Johnson have agreed to formalize an arrangement in which they have allowed conservation area visitors to park on their land. Neighbors had been concerned about cars parked along Lincoln Road near a sharp corner.

Commissioners agreed to provide gravel, fencing and insurance for the parking area.

Chase said the 710-acre conservation area north of the eastern edge of Spokane Valley will soon grow to 1,066 acres when the last of three purchases is completed.

A $1 million state grant will reduce the county’s cost of acquiring the downtown Spokane YMCA site to $3.4 million, Spokane Parks Director Leroy Eadie told commissioners.

Adding the former YMCA land to Riverfront Park is a joint city-county project. The city made a $1 million down payment and the county agreed to pay the $4.4 million balance.

While the county owns the land, the city is responsible for renovating and maintaining it. Money for the Conservation Futures program comes from a voter-approved property tax of up to 6 1/4 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Eadie sought commissioners’ permission to solicit bids next month for the restoration, which will expose a stream that ran under the recently demolished YMCA building.

He said the renovation also will provide three viewpoints that show the roiling Spokane River and the north bank cityscape, including the county courthouse.

Plaques on the tops of basalt columns at the viewpoints will provide information about county conservation areas. A previously planned informational kiosk will be eliminated because it would have obstructed views, Eadie said.

County commissioners were reluctant to give up the kiosk, but Chase said he and his staff “instantly” understood the change after visiting the site.

Commissioners want to tour the one-acre parcel before taking action June 7 but generally were enthusiastic about the plans.

“I think it’s going to be a phenomenal project,” Commissioner Mark Richard said. “I think (residents) are going to see you guys as visionaries.”

Eadie said construction is to start July 15 and be finished this fall.

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