Arrow-right Camera
News >  Features >  Washington Voices

Park full of absorbing moments

Working in downtown Spokane has its perks and Riverfront Park is one of them. Every spring I resume my lunch hour walks through the park relishing the exercise while experiencing some interesting moments.

For the most part, my walks are the average run-of-the-mill type; sun on skin, the trickle of sweat, watching the ever-changing Spokane River.

Familiar sounds and smells waft through the park. Scents of food, marigolds and petunias mingle in the warm air. Shouts of kids, music from the Carrousel and chime of the Clocktower fill the ears.

There’s also the unusual – a clown twisting balloons into animal shapes, the Vietnam War monument, Riverfront Rotary Fountain and Centennial Trail that weaves through the park.

And there are those park moments that literally take your breath away.

The fountain often provides those moments. The delighted squeals from toddlers to teens as they splash through the fountain’s spray rotations are infectious. On days when troubles abound, I take my lunch, plant myself on the one of the benches around the fountain and remember there are a lot of smiles left in the world.

The geese are another park moment. They squawk and clack. Their big, rubbery feet slap the ground as they waddle by. Such bravado they possess. I can’t help but smile. Last summer by the Jundt Art Museum, a gaggle of Canada geese, the gander leading four downy yellow goslings, waddled along the grass pecking at bits of food. The goslings stayed close while mom and dad peered at the passers-by as if to say, “Go ahead, touch one … and die!”

Last year my husband and I were walking through the park and happened upon a beaver, its glossy brown pelt shone in the fading sunlight. My husband snapped some pictures of the large critter with its paddle-like tail tucked underneath. We were in awe of such a find.

Then there’s the Spokane River. There are plenty of river moments but the most impressive is spring runoff. The thunderous roar is one of those breathtaking times as I stand on a bridge and not only watch but hear the water surge by.

And then there are those moments, those once-in-a-lifetime moments that happen within seconds but stay forever. Such a moment was in October 2005.

The weather was brisk as the sun peeked in and out of dark clouds. Last walk of the year I thought as I zipped up the jacket and stuffed hands into pockets. Only a few brave souls had passed by.

Winds kicked up as I rounded a corner to cross Kardong Bridge and spotted a solitary walker coming toward me.

The collar of his dark coat was drawn up around his neck and his hands were stuffed in pockets in such a way that I could see the outline of his fists. He was in deep thought, oblivious to my approaching presence.

I knew who he was and knew I was witnessing a private moment.

I coughed, and watched his body language change in a second. Jim West, whose political career had fallen into ruin, transitioned into the self-assured Mayor West I’d read about in the news and seen on television. He lifted his head, squared his shoulders, eased his face, unknotted his fists and, with a nod, smiled as he walked by. I returned the gesture.

It was a revealing moment; one that remains fresh in my mind.

Interesting what you see in Riverfront Park.

Voices correspondent Sandra Babcock can be reached by email at Previous columns are available at