April 26, 2013 in City

Huntington Park redesign includes tie-in to Riverfront Park

By The Spokesman-Review
 
PHOTO ARCHIVE photo

Pictured is the Washington Water Power plant located on the current Huntington Park site around 1920-30.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

About Huntington Park

Huntington Park was built on land that once mostly held the components of a sprawling Monroe Street Dam complex. In 1972 the dam was partially washed out and Washington Water Power, later renamed Avista Corp., won approval to build a new dam despite opposition by conservationists. As part of the new dam, Avista built steps along the falls on top of the large penstock that brings river water to dam turbines. It replaced multiple tubes that covered the landscape. The steps were opened to the public when Huntington Park was dedicated just prior to the start of Expo ’74. Huntington Park is named after a former Washington Water Power president.

The powerhouse housing the dam’s turbines built in 1889 was demolished in 1990, replaced by one that’s underground. A Monroe Street Dam turbine used in the powerhouse from 1903 to 1990 was donated to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., where it remains on permanent display in its Made in America exhibit.

The gate to Huntington Park is often closed, even when the park is open.

It’s just one of the access problems to a park that’s mainly a series of steps offering dramatic views of lower Spokane Falls and the spillway of the Monroe Street Dam.

Avista Corp., which owns the location, hopes to make Huntington Park more welcoming with a street-level plaza, crosswalk, landscaping and sidewalk.

“Right now you get the feeling that you don’t know if you really belong,” said Speed Fitzhugh, Avista’s Spokane River license manager.

The electric and gas company is hoping to gain city approval for its plan so construction can start this summer. The goal is to have it finished by 2014 – the 125th anniversary of Avista and the 40th anniversary of Expo ’74, which was the year the park was dedicated.

Avista wants “to help make it an attraction and tie it in to Riverfront Park,” said Bruce Howard, the company’s environmental affairs director.

Perhaps the most dramatic change would be the removal of a small parking lot just north of Spokane City Hall so Avista could build the new plaza leading into the park under the Riverfront Park Gondola ride.

The parking lot includes spots for City Council members and the electric charging station where the city’s electric car is kept. Proposals call for three handicapped spaces and the electric charging station to move to a small lot on the southwest corner of the building. Other parking, including for the mayor and City Council, would move to a city lot in Riverfront Park or to the River Park Square Parking Garage, a subsidiary of the Cowles Co., which also owns The Spokesman-Review.

At least some council members said they’re OK with losing the convenience of a spot so close to City Hall’s entrance.

“I don’t care about my parking,” said Councilman Mike Allen, a Park Board member. “I’d rather do what’s best for my community.”

Besides the new plaza, proposals include improved landscaping along the stairs; building a crosswalk across Post Street for improved pedestrian access to the new plaza; and a sidewalk along an access road for Avista vehicles entering from Spokane Falls Boulevard. Fitzhugh said visitors are allowed to walk on the road, but often think they aren’t because it’s gated.

Fitzhugh said the project cost could reach $1 million, though he cautioned that plans are preliminary.

Allen said the renovation project has sparked talk of creating a trail along the south side of the Spokane River through Riverfront Park, Huntington Park, Glover Field and potentially to the Sandifur Bridge in High Bridge Park.

The city is planning to build a giant tank under Glover Field in Peaceful Valley in an effort to stop untreated sewage from flowing into the Spokane River with stormwater when it rains.

Utilities Director Rick Romero said city officials are considering a pathway for a pipe to the tank from downtown, along the riverbank. If that happens, a trail possibly could be built over the pipe to Glover Field. Combined with the Centennial Trail under construction on the north side of the river in Kendall Yards, it would create the potential of a loop trail around the Spokane River gorge.

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