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Spokatopia aims to get people outside for fun activities

Melissa Wheeler, with the help of her son Daetyn Wheeler, 13, left, and Phil Sanders, learns to ride a unicycle at the Spokatopia Outdoor Adventure Festival held Saturday at Camp Sekani on Upriver Drive. (Colin Mulvany)
Melissa Wheeler, with the help of her son Daetyn Wheeler, 13, left, and Phil Sanders, learns to ride a unicycle at the Spokatopia Outdoor Adventure Festival held Saturday at Camp Sekani on Upriver Drive. (Colin Mulvany)

Hari Heath sat beneath a pine tree on the shores of the Spokane River watching over a gleaming handcrafted wooden canoe.

Curious people stopped and admired the sleek-looking boat, which Heath said took him 400 hours to build by hand.

Heath was just one of many local outdoor enthusiasts who congregated on the banks of the Spokane River on Saturday.

“I’m just here because it’s fun,” Heath said.

That was the goal at Spokatopia Outdoor Adventure Festival. Created by Spokane Parks and Recreation, Out There Monthly and the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, the event was held at Camp Sekani Park on East Upriver Drive.

“Our goal is to get more of the community outside and at an affordable price,” said Regan Farmer, an outdoor guide for the city of Spokane and a coordinator of the festival.

Although organizers worried early in the day that people wouldn’t come because of the rain, between 600 and 700 people attended, Farmer said.

General admission cost $5. However, if participants signed up for an excursion, such as kayaking, trail running, mountain biking or rock climbing, the general fee was waived. The cost for excursions varied, Farmer said.

“We do as many outdoor events as we hear about,” said participant Melissa Wheeler.

Wheeler and her 5-year-old son Daelan had just spent the morning learning how to geocache. Geocaching is a social media scavenger hunt where participants try and find objects hidden and buried by others.

Next up for the Wheelers was canoeing.

Gregg Sealey and his wife, Jen, echoed Wheeler. The Sealeys came to the festival in hopes of learning more about kayaking.

“People have so many opportunities in this area to get outside,” said Shallan Knowles, co-publisher of Out There Monthly. “We just want to strengthen the outdoor recreation community.”

Another goal of the event was to highlight how many activities the city offers through Parks and Recreation, Farmer said.

“So many people don’t know the city provides trips like we do,” Farmer said.

In addition to the city’s services, various stores, organizations and groups set up booths. Interested participants wandered through asking questions and sometimes testing products.

Mountain bike dealers had bikes available to ride. There were running shoes runners could borrow for a trial run, a massage table and a beer garden. All beer proceeds went to the Evergreen East Mountain Bike Alliance, which maintains the trails at Camp Sekani.

“This is the first of many years,” Knowles said. “We’re trying to reach everybody.”


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