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Plan would improve visitor access to Spokane Falls

Plans for a redesign of Huntington Park along the lower Spokane Falls are getting tweaks from the public.

Ideas for the $2 million makeover have already been modified in response to comments from neighborhood representatives and the city of Spokane’s Design Review Board.

Avista and the city of Spokane are working together on creating a public plaza on the north side of City Hall to overlook the lower Spokane Falls.

The plaza, which would replace a City Hall parking lot, would become a new entry to the 3.8-acre Huntington Park, which hugs the slope of the river gorge below City Hall next to the falls.

The project requires a shoreline development permit. Public comment on the permit closes Monday at the Planning Department at City Hall.

“It’s really a cool project,” said Jessie Wuerst, Avista spokeswoman.

Visitors to the falls would get improved access, new interpretive displays and more parklike amenities.

The new plaza is planned to include plenty of seating, views of the falls and a space for gatherings or performances, said Speed Fitzhugh, Spokane River license manager for Avista.

An arched gateway entry has been eliminated in favor of a low entry wall suitable for seating.

Handicapped access was also modified in response to comments taken on the project, Fitzhugh said.

The plaza design seeks to connect Riverfront Park with Huntington Park. “Our goal is to invite people in and make them feel welcome,” Fitzhugh said.

New stair steps and ramps would lead down to Huntington Park and new sidewalks would provide visitors safer walking areas. New lighting is planned.

A viewing area on a rock promontory at the northwest corner of the historic Post Street Substation building would be opened to the public. An old power turbine is being brought in for an interpretive display.

Native grasses next to the falls would be replaced with a park grass so people could sit and enjoy the falls’ roar, Fitzhugh said.

A “wall” of vines or other plants is being considered to screen off the hydropower intake structure, an idea that arose from public comment, Fitzhugh said.

Avista this week received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the improvements, he said. The project also needs approvals from the city planning director and state Department of Ecology.

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