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New sidewalk on Lyons Avenue comes at cost of trees

Thu., Aug. 22, 2013

Community development block grant money was used to build sidewalk along the north side of Lyons Avenue between Nevada and Perry streets. (Pia Hallenberg)
Community development block grant money was used to build sidewalk along the north side of Lyons Avenue between Nevada and Perry streets. (Pia Hallenberg)

It’s a story that has been repeated in a few neighborhoods this summer: a new sidewalk is going in and mature trees are cut down to make room for it, upsetting tree- and shade-loving neighbors.

This time, the sidewalk went in along the north side of Lyons Avenue in front of Contempo Mobile Home Park, between Nevada and Perry streets, and 15 maple trees were cut down in the process.

Sandy Smith, who lives near Contempo, said she wishes she’d known ahead of time that the trees were coming down.

“You go to work in the morning, and you see the big maple trees, and you come home at night and they are gone,” Smith said. “It truly is a shock to people.”

The new sidewalk is a Nevada Lidgerwood Community Development project, explained neighborhood council member Dorothy Mehl in an email.

“We have been debating this for many years because we did not want to remove the beautiful trees,” Mehl wrote. “Yet we knew the importance of the sidewalk, especially after the bus route changed and people now walk to Nevada to get the bus.”

The tree removal appears to have had an unintended yet positive side effect for Contempo Mobile Home Park.

Manager Robert Cochran said that thieves have plagued the park recently, going through residents’ carports and garden sheds at night, stealing whatever they could and pitching it over the fence out onto Lyons Avenue.

“They’d have someone waiting out there to pick it up, and we couldn’t see a thing because of the big trees and the lack of street lights,” Cochran said.

The sidewalk now runs the length of the south side of Contempo, giving a clear view of the entrance to the mobile home park and the fence that surrounds it.

Still, some residents were not pleased to see the trees gone.

“Absolutely, we had some residents who were upset the trees were coming down,” Cochran said. “The trees provided both shade and a sound barrier toward Lyons.”

Contempo is a mobile home park for people 55 years or older. Cochran said some get around using electric scooters, and he is happy that they now have a sidewalk to ride on when they head to the nearby Albertsons.

“They used to ride down the middle of the street – that just scared us,” Cochran said.

Julie Happy, communication manager of the city of Spokane’s Business and Development Services, wrote in an email that the estimated cost of the sidewalk is $50,000, and the project includes replanting of some trees that will be watered by an irrigation system run by Contempo.

“When complete, Lyons Avenue will have about 4,200 feet of continuous sidewalk on the north side of the street from Napa through Nevada, to just west of Cincinnati,” Happy wrote in an email.

Smith said she’s disappointed no one informed the neighborhood what was going on.

“The neighborhood council doesn’t send out a newsletter any longer. Someone should have told us what was about to happen,” Smith said. At the same time she said she realizes the sidewalk is needed for safety purposes – to keep pedestrians out of the street.

The replacement trees should be installed by October.

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