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Gorge loop trail on south side of river has new life

Melissa Ahern supports the idea of the gorge loop trail that would run past the Peaceful Valley Community Garden. (Dan Pelle)
Melissa Ahern supports the idea of the gorge loop trail that would run past the Peaceful Valley Community Garden. (Dan Pelle)

Plans for a Spokane River gorge loop trail in downtown Spokane were nearly complete two years ago. Then they weren’t.

Now, they’re almost done again. Almost.

The current loop trail segment under discussion will run through Peaceful Valley, a quiet neighborhood on the river’s edge just west of downtown. Beginning at the Sandifur Bridge in People’s Park, the trail will briefly run along the river’s edge before following Clarke and Water avenues to Glover Field.

The 10-foot-wide, 1.3-mile paved trail segment will link to the Centennial Trail in Kendall Yards. In the future, city officials say, a 3-mile trail will loop around the bluffs above the Spokane River, downriver from Riverfront Park.

“I think it’s great,” said Melissa Ahern, a retired Washington State University economics professor, while she watered her plot at the Peaceful Valley Community Garden on Thursday. “It seems like Spokane is popping along right now.”

Ahern, who lives in Browne’s Addition, pointed to the $64 million bond to remake Riverfront Park, the growth of Kendall Yards and recent expansion of the Centennial Trail as signs of Spokane’s progress and reasons for her approval of the Peaceful Valley trail.

Trails keep people healthy, she added.

“It enables older people – and there are tons of us – to ride our bikes or walk,” she said. “It’s all good and no bad, as far as I’m concerned.”

The Peaceful Valley trail segment will be done as part of Clarke Avenue construction, a street resurfacing and waterline project that costs about $2.4 million and will be paid for with 2014 street levy and utility dollars. The trail and roadwork are scheduled to be complete in 2016.

“This project incorporates multiple uses,” said Brandon Blankenagel, a senior engineer with the city. “It incorporates street and utility elements, and your street is also a bicycle-pedestrian corridor.”

Unlike bike lanes, which share the street with vehicular traffic, this path will be more like a wide sidewalk, on a different level than cars. It will be as wide as the Centennial Trail, but its surface will vary between asphalt and concrete.

Plans for such a trail cropped up in 2013, when the Centennial Trail was under construction in Kendall Yards. At the time, one part of the trail was to follow a sewer overflow pipe beneath the Monroe Street Bridge from Huntington Park to Glover Field.

That bit of the trail was scrapped when the city had to redraw its plans for a huge, 4-million-gallon sewer overflow tank in Glover Field. Plans were made to move the cistern to a parking lot on Main Avenue near the old Masonic Temple. That plan fell through, and now a tank is envisioned on the bluff opposite the Spokane Public Library on Spokane Falls Boulevard.

Marlene Feist, utilities spokeswoman, said the new tank location could enable the city to build the last link for the loop trail, while adding a trailhead on Spokane Falls Boulevard.

“The one missing segment will be City Hall to Glover Field. We just have to get from the tank to Glover,” Feist said, adding that funding for that bit of trail is unclear. “Maybe we do public fundraising. I don’t know.”

Most people out and about along the proposed trail route Thursday were supportive of the idea. Connie and Suzanne Goodman, a mother and daughter who have lived separately in the neighborhood for more than a decade, both said it would improve the neighborhood, but Connie said the city had to focus on safety.

“The buses fly through and they don’t slow down,” she said.

Josh Flanagan, who owns the rafting company Wiley E. Waters, said he welcomed more walkers and cyclists.

“Any way we can get more people out recreating, it’ll be good for the community,” he said.

Roy Marriott di Pignatelli, who lives on Water Avenue below the Maple Street Bridge, is not in favor of the trail, and suggested it would be an invitation for “Spokane Club members and college students to trash the neighborhood.”

As Marriott di Pignatelli viewed his garden plot with his small dog, Coco, cradled in his arm, he said the city had no interest in lighting or maintaining the trail once it was built, and said there would not be enough restrooms or garbage cans to handle what trail users produce.

“The city’s not doing any of it. Any of it,” he said. He added that the number of commercial rafting companies would swamp the park and street, limiting access for others.

“That’s not public access to the river,” he said. “But it’s a done deal.”


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