If you have an hour or two sometime soon, get out and walk or ride on the new section of Centennial Trail between the Monroe Street and Sandifur bridges. Even in its more or less raw state – the landscaping and most of the other planned amenities will not be in place until spring – the 12-foot-wide ribbon of asphalt is stunning.
Nobody alive today in Spokane has ever been able to see the Spokane River as they can now.
For more than a century, a railroad trestle and industrial development blocked any sort of public access between Monroe and Cedar streets. West of Cedar, what access there was followed an unpaved stretch of Ohio Street set too far back from the bluff marking the edge of the river gorge to allow expansive views, even after the dust settled.
On the other side of Ohio was a former railroad yard turned wasteland owned by Metropolitan Mortgage & Securities Co. and then Idaho developer Marshall Chesrown, who at least managed to clean up the property. When the recession wiped out his plans for a mixed-use development he dubbed Kendall Yards, Greenstone Corp. stepped in. And stepped up.
Ohio Street is gone, replaced by the Centennial Trail, which mostly traces the river bluff’s edge from Monroe to the trail coming up from the Sandifur Bridge. It ducks under the Monroe bridge with plenty of clearance created when old fill material was removed. The result is space enough to provide a sense of security.
There’s a wide spot where the trail returns to street level that will awe when the falls billow with spring runoff. At this time of year, the turning foliage makes its own magic all along the outlook.
Kendall Yards’ commercial and residential buildings crowd the trail closer to downtown, but leave a wider buffer in other places. Eventually, the trail will cross undeveloped park space to connect with West Summit Boulevard.
The city of Spokane used a $2 million state grant to buy some of the trail right of way from Greenstone, which contributed more property and amenities. This was money well spent and, says Greenstone Chief Executive Officer Jim Frank, “There’s still a lot to happen.”
Frank has championed the trail through Kendall Yards, and Greenstone’s River District project in Liberty Lake. Like other property owners, some of whom once argued the trail would spur crime and destroy property value, Frank recognizes its 67-mile length as an asset that has helped earn Spokane a place among the best places to live out-of-doors by Outside magazine.
Even opponents, some of whom once lay down to block trail construction at Kendall Yards, are now thanking him, Frank says.
There’s plenty of credit to go round, starting with a vision for a gorge park urged on the city 100 years ago by John and Frederick Olmsted, the most famous landscape architects of their day. The Spokane Parks Department, Friends of the Falls and Friends of the Centennial Trail were among those who kept that vision alive.
To see what they saw, go take a walk.