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Riverfront Park master plan debuts

There was one word Leroy Eadie, director of the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, repeated more than any other at last Thursday’s presentation of the Riverfront Park master plan: “draft.”

“It is all in draft form. Absolutely nothing is set in stone,” said Eadie, when he presented the plan at a community meeting last week at West Central Community Center. “We have looked at previous master plans and we have solicited a lot of input from stakeholders.”

Stakeholders include the Public Facilities District, Spokane Transit Authority, area tribes, the Downtown Spokane Partnership and, of course, people who use the park.

Updating Riverfront Park is not just about visible changes such as where to build trails or whether the Carrousel needs a new building, said Eadie; it’s also about updating infrastructure to match today’s entertainment events.

“Riverfront Park is the living room of our community,” Eadie said. “Whatever we do we want to stay true to the vision from Expo ’74. The pavilion will not go away, but the bridges need help and we need many other facility updates.”

A combined bathroom and concession building is planned near the Rotary Fountain, but that’s likely to be the only change Riverfront Park visitors will see for now. After the master plan is completed, the city will seek voter approval for a parks bond.

Eadie explained that for planning purposes, the park has been divided into four quadrants. Here are some of the proposed changes and draft ideas organized by quadrant:

North Bank Quadrant (north of the Spokane River, below Spokane Arena)

• Mixed-use buildings may be a good fit for property owned by the Parks Department just north of the park.

• Construction of a stronger north-facing main entrance to the park.

• Improvements and better landscaping of existing parking lots.

• Children’s rides could be moved to landscaped area on the north bank.

West Riverfront Park (conservation area across Post Street and Howard Street Bridge)

• Construction of a cultural center near Veterans Court when Post Street Bridge becomes a pedestrian bridge.

• Preserve and develop the Theme Stream.

• The Spokane Sister City Association would like to resurrect the Japanese Garden that was there for Expo ’74.

Central Park Quadrant (east of Howard Street corridor, to the east end of Havermale Island)

• The Pavilion may once again be covered and could serve as an outdoor concert venue.

• Construction of a central pedestrian promenade.

• Construction of a central courtyard to better serve bigger crowds at Bloomsday and Hoopfest.

South Park Quadrant (near Spokane Falls Boulevard, the Looff Carrousel, from the Red Wagon to the Skyrides)

• Construction of a bigger and better building for the Looff Carrousel.

• The gondola rides could be connected to the Convention Center.

• A Hoopfest monument is planned between the Rotary Fountain and the Runners.

• Construction of a better connection to Huntington Park (below City Hall, where the falls can be viewed).

Eadie said the Parks Board is expected to do its final review of the Riverfront Park master plan in June and to approve it in July.

Then phase two, which includes financial assessment, funding strategies and establishing priorities, begins. The draft master plan has no price tag – yet.

“We believe this is our next big park bond opportunity,” said Eadie, adding that 2014 looks like the year voters will see a bond on the ballot. “We do need a bond to do the bigger stuff. Some of the smaller preparations can be done on the budget we currently have.”

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