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Restrictions on car shows explained by parks director

Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone spent time at Tuesday’s City Council meeting detailing how his department handles car shows in city parks after some car clubs complained they couldn’t hold their events in the parks.

The size and terrain of several of the city’s parks makes them unsuitable for car shows, Stone said. “Several of our parks are in neighborhoods,” he said. “We don’t really have a park that’s suited to host large scale community events.”

Most parks do not have enough parking, restrooms or power to host large events, he said. The closest the city can come is Mirabeau Meadows, he said. His department also has to worry about damage to the grass and how long it will take for it to recover. The irrigation system has to be turned off several days in advance to make sure the ground is firm enough to support cars, which can take a toll in hot summer weather.

A show was once held in Valley Mission Park, but it proved too much for the park to handle on top of people heading to the park to swim in the pool or visit Splash Down, he said. Right now he allows four car shows a year in Mirabeau Meadows.

Stone said he has to restrict car parking to the perimeter of Mirabeau Meadows. That’s because the ground in the center of the park is always wet and isn’t firm enough for cars to drive on, Stone said. “Believe it or not, the center of Mirabeau Meadows is the worst soil in the park system,” he said. “It’s pretty wet. You could lose some of those cars in there.”

Some car clubs are upset that they aren’t allowed in the center of the park while Valleyfest is, Stone said. “It’s at the end of our park season,” Stone said of the annual event that his held near the end of September. “We can handle one major event.” Even Valleyfest wouldn’t be allowed in that part of the park if the event was earlier in the year, he said.

Councilman Dean Grafos said he met with some of the car club representatives. “It is a big deal,” he said, noting that shows can attract hundreds of people. “They spend money.” He agreed that car shows in Mirabeau Meadows should be restricted to four per year, but said the city should do more to reach out to the clubs.

Stone said he is willing to sit down with the clubs and discuss the issue. “I totally think we could work something out,” he said.

Mayor Tom Towey said he attended a car show at Mirabeau this year and the cars were parked around the edge in the allowed areas. “I didn’t hear one negative thing from them,” he said.

In other business, the council discussed entry sign designs and possible locations for the signs. The council agreed that they want to focus on one or two signs at first. There are 16 locations that seem to be logical sites for entry signs, but the city would have to acquire property if it wants to do large signs, Stone said.

Councilman Arne Woodard suggested doing an entry sign on Sprague Avenue on the west end of town first. He also said the city could ask for community volunteers to put in landscaping. “I bet you we would end up with 500 or 1,000 volunteers down there,” he said. “We have a lot of dedicated people out there.”

The majority of the council said they preferred a sign made of metal supported by small pillars of river rock. The design also included a planter box as the base, but several council members said they were in favor of removing that feature to save money.

Grafos said he favored a large stone with the city’s name written on it, which would be similar to a sign at Mirabeau Meadows. “It’s the least expensive,” he said.

The council also decided not to move forward with legislation requiring that bicycle riders under the age of 16 wear helmets. The city of Spokane has an ordinance requiring helmet use and fines can be given. Spokane County recently passed an ordinance requiring helmet use but did not include any penalties.

Spokane Valley Police Chief Rick Van Leuven said his officers hand out coupons for free ice cream at McDonald’s to children seen wearing their helmets. They also encourage helmet use through events like bike rodeos. “The positive reinforcement is certainly working for us,” he said.

Towey said he thinks positive reinforcement “is a lot better than the negative, violation, penalty approach.”

It is up to parents to determine if their children should wear helmets, said Councilman Chuck Hafner. “We simply can’t take over responsibilities that are rightfully parents’.”

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