A boat launch will likely be built in Peaceful Valley in 2018 using money from a popular, but doomed, river gorge project.
The nonmotorized boat launch would be built at Glover Field.
The launch will give anglers and other recreational waterway users access to the Spokane River below the falls. Currently, there is a boat launch at Water Avenue.
The Glover Field launch will provide more parking and better access, said Brandon Blankenagel a senior engineer for the Public Works Department.
“One of the neat things that comes out of Glover Field is the opportunity to look up stream and see the full city skyline,” he said. “Then within half-a-mile or even a quarter-of-a-mile you’re fully immersed in nature.”
The project will cost between $250,000 and $300,000, Blankenagel said.
In a poetic twist, the boat launch will be funded with leftover money from a doomed project – the whitewater park.
In 2005, the city and Friends of the Falls developed a plan to build a whitewater park near the Sandifur pedestrian bridge. Features would have been designed into the river to create waves for paddlers and inner-tubers to play in.
That project died “of a thousand cuts” because of environmental concerns and worries about the impact on redband trout, said Andy Dunau the Spokane River Forum executive director.
But the money from a Department of Commerce grant didn’t disappear. Instead, inexplicably, it hung around, biennium after biennium.
Of the original $394,000 earmarked for the whitewater park, $159,000 was spent trying to get the project off the ground, Dunau said.
The rest sat there until 2016, when Friends of the Falls merged with the Spokane River Forum. That’s when Dunau discovered that the state had held on to the leftover money – roughly $235,000.
Dunau started petitioning the Department of Commerce and the Legislature to reappropriate the money for the Glover Field boat launch. Despite some initial resistance, on Jan. 19 the money was included in the Legislature’s reappropriation budget.
But Dunau said it has to happen quickly. Permits need to be submitted by March 1. If the permits are approved, Dunau hopes the state will release the money.
“I think it’s incredibly exciting because we are ready to go,” he said. “There is no reason to believe that this can’t be built in 2018.”
Increased river use is making the boat launch an increasing necessity, he said.
“Since we’ve started the Water Trail there have been a whole lot more people on the river,” he said. “At the same time, the anglers want a whole lot better access because there is no way to get drift boats in the gorge right now.”
Eventually the Glover Field boat launch will be a trailhead for the larger river loop trail, Blankenagel said. That project is still in the planning phase and not fully funded.
“This (Glover Field) is really the closest point at which you can jump into the water with reasonable access and the closest point to the falls,” he said.
Because of the city’s shoreline building ordinance, no parking lots can be built near the river’s shore. The existing parking lot at Glover Field will be repurposed.
Parking in Peaceful Valley has become congested, especially on summer weekends and holidays when people flock to the river. Organizers hope the Glover Field launch will alleviate this congestion.
“I think it’s a great development from the standpoint of reducing conflict between the neighborhood people of Peaceful Valley and the recreational users,” said Peter Grubb, the president of ROW Adventures.
Grubb said he met with a city engineers about the design of the launch and expressed two concerns.
First, he worried that the turnaround wouldn’t be wide enough for a bus – a common method of transport for guiding companies. Additionally, he worried that the rails leading into the river might not be long enough. Often with these types of boat launches, he said, the rails extend to the high-river mark. When the river is low, the rails don’t reach all the way to the river.
The launch will have steps and rails that allow boaters to slide their watercraft down the bank and into the river.
While the larger South Gorge Trail won’t be completed soon, Blankenagel said the installation of a series of CSO tanks in Peaceful Valley will jump-start the creation of a trail by the river adjacent to Glover Field. That portion of the trail should be completed in 2019, he said.
“While we do all that landscaping, we’ll bring that trail through there as well,” he said.
Peaceful Valley neighborhood chair Bill Forman said the boat launch will ease traffic and parking problems in the neighborhood in the summer.
But more important, he said, it’s the first project in the much anticipated South Gorge trail, much of which will run through Peaceful Valley.
“I’m just pulling for our trail to finally get started,” he said.