Dozens of people packed into the basement meeting room at the Spokane Valley Library Monday to tell city staff what features they wanted to see in an expanded Balfour Park.
Representatives of the city of Spokane Valley and the Spokane County Library District were there to get ideas about the park expansion and a new library branch on 8.4 acres the city now owns across from the old University City Mall. The district has agreed to purchase a little more than 2 acres of the site to build a library if they are able to pass a bond to fund the project.
“This is something we’re looking at that will define our city for the next 50 years,” said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone. Right now the concern isn’t about how much the project would cost but rather what residents want in their park, he said. “Tonight’s your night to be creative.”
Residents in the crowd expressed concerns about traffic and how the project might impact the surrounding neighborhood and the Spokane Valley Fire Department, which has a station next door to the park.
Sprague Avenue is one-way, westbound, in front of the park. “That will be one of the more significant design challenges,” said landscape architect Dell Hatch.
The crowd seemed almost unanimously in favor of features such as a veterans memorial, a farmers market, walking paths, a reading garden and a picnic shelter. Opinions were mixed on a splash pad and only a few voiced support for a skate park.
Most advocated leaving the existing Balfour Park largely unchanged except for the addition of a few more child-friendly features. There was consensus that the existing bathrooms and play area should remain. Several people suggested adding a traffic light at Sprague Avenue and Dartmouth Road to ease access problems.
Resident Tamara Kent said the existing mounds in Balfour Park should be removed so that area can be used as open space.
“You can’t use it for anything,” she said.
Resident Mikaela Terpko said there should be screening between the children’s area and some “sketchy” apartments at Main Avenue and Herald Road on the back side of the park “so there aren’t creepy weirdos staring at the kids while they’re playing,” she said.
“What’s really important to me is security,” she said.
People broke into small groups and were given markers to draw on maps where they would put certain features. They debated over what should be located next to Sprague to draw people into the park and where the library should go.
“I don’t think a splash pad is appropriate on Sprague,” said resident Kami Smith.
“The splash pad would be good next to the play area,” said resident Meg Kreiner. “It’s kind of protected.”
Some also made suggestions that weren’t on the wish list presented by planners.
“If we didn’t have the market I would like to see a community garden, but I don’t think you can do both,” said Terpko.
Another meeting is planned for May 20 to present a more refined plan for the site based on the community comments received this week.
“It’s still going to be a work in progress,” Hatch said.