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Public surveys offer wish lists for Finch Arboretum draft master plan

Larry Hampson gathers water from Garden Springs Creek for Melinda Hill as volunteers plant trees as of Reforest Spokane Day, Oct, 25, 2014, near John A. Finch Arboretum. During the first half of 2018, the Spokane parks department collected public input to help form a master plan for Finch Arboretum in west Spokane. Garden Springs Creek, which is choked with invasive plants, may continue to be reclaimed under master plan being drafted. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Larry Hampson gathers water from Garden Springs Creek for Melinda Hill as volunteers plant trees as of Reforest Spokane Day, Oct, 25, 2014, near John A. Finch Arboretum. During the first half of 2018, the Spokane parks department collected public input to help form a master plan for Finch Arboretum in west Spokane. Garden Springs Creek, which is choked with invasive plants, may continue to be reclaimed under master plan being drafted. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Upgrades to Spokane’s venerable arboretum are going to be guided by a new master plan under development by the parks department.

Citizens have been helping out by attending a public meeting in June and submitting about 200 surveys.

A draft master plan is expected by the end of September from a consultant with experience working with arboretums.

“To me, the most significant thing is we are looking at the arboretum with intention,” said Tim Kohlhauff, the chair of the citizen advisory committee to the Urban Forestry Committee of the Park Board.

Last week, the Urban Forestry Committee got an update on the master plan development.

Angel Spell, assistant director of natural resources for the city, told committee members that formal and informal education about trees, botany and the environment is a top goal in the developing master plan.

An outdoor learning space, which could double as an event space, will likely be part of the plan. It would be located next to the existing Woodland Center, which has indoor classroom space.

Spell said through the master plan the city could better capitalize on the “iconic regional experience” of the arboretum, which is nothing less than a “botanical wonderland.”

But the historic arboretum fails to guide visitors very well. Many of its tree species are not marked or labeled. Some have metal dog tags while others have ground-mounted signs. Directional signs are sparse.

The touch and see natural trail that describes native plants in the arboretum badly needs updating.

Spell said the main entrance off Sunset Boulevard will be getting some upgrades in a current street project and more improvements next year.

A pedestrian and bicycle access point on the upper end of the arboretum next to Sunset Boulevard needs to be made a formal entrance.

Noise from Interstate 90 next to the arboretum is another problem that will be tough to fix. A sound wall is expensive and a vegetative sound barrier would be minimally effective, Spell said.

A new demonstration garden with native and regional plants is being considered and was supported by citizen comments.

A pollinator garden is envisioned, as well.

Garden Springs Creek, which is choked with invasive plants, would continue to be reclaimed under the master plan document.

Enhancements are needed in Corey Glen under the master plan.

A more formal loop trail is envisioned in the document. The main trail would have a distinct walking surface so that visitors could distinguish it from secondary paths.

Handicapped accessibility would be improved.

Existing mature Ponderosa pines would be kept.

The consultant on the project, AHBL Inc. with an office in Spokane, is expected to prioritize projects. Improvements could take up to 15 years to accomplish, Spell said.

The public will get a chance to comment on the draft master plan before it is submitted for approval to the Urban Forestry Committee and the Park Board.