One of Spokane’s oldest neighborhoods is putting on a fresh face.
Approved by the Spokane City Council in July 2017, the Chief Garry Park Neighborhood Action Plan is in motion.
“This is our vision for what the neighborhood could be like over the next 20 years,” said neighborhood council co-chair Colleen Gardner. “The potential is there; we just have to find the right people who want to invest.”
The Chief Garry Park neighborhood encompasses the area between Trent Avenue and the Spokane River, from where they meet, near Hamilton Street out to the city limits. The neighborhood is home to Chief Garry Park, Parkwater, Felts Field and the Spokane Community College campus.
The plan includes more efficient land use along the Trent Avenue industrial corridor, revitalized retail zones and safer, more convenient walking trails. Planned enhancements include park and crosswalk lighting, street trees, benches, kiosks, trail markers, gateway signs and wider, color-coded sidewalks.
The neighborhood has a local feel. There are no malls, supermarkets or big box stores within its boundaries, and only a couple of fast food franchises.
“The neighborhood doesn’t have a huge business presence,” Gardner said. “But the business presence we do have is neighborhood-oriented.”
To get the local businesses interested, Gardner recently spent two days going door-to-door, introducing herself to neighborhood business owners and telling them about their neighborhood council.
“We really got them involved during the planning process,” council co-chair Cathy Gunderson said.
Said Gardner: “We’ve done a real push, so that people … know we are here. Now, if they read something about the neighborhood in the paper, they can come to us and say, ‘What’s going on?’ ”
The council wants to refurbish sidewalks, install lighting, connect walking trails and clean up vacant lots along the Mission corridor, to connect the retail zone near Greene Street – across from Spokane Community College – with the Mission and Napa Street retail zone.
“This is walkable, between Greene and Napa,” said Gardner. “If we build (both areas) up, we’ll have that connection.”
Also in the plan are a pair of lighted, well-marked walking routes. “We want one north and one south of Mission,” said Gardner.
The southern route will connect Stone Park, Chief Garry Park and Stevens Elementary. The northern route runs along Regal Street and the north side of Mission, connecting Tuffy’s Trail with Chief Garry Park.
The plan accounts for pending outside projects such as the Central City Line, the approaching north-south freeway and an upcoming Felts Field remodel. The new bus line, in particular, will change the face of the neighborhood.
“The Central City Line is going to go right down Mission Street,” Gunderson said. “It’s an excellent opportunity to enhance the area, too.”
The Chief Garry Park neighborhood council predates the neighborhood council system. Gunderson joined an existing council in 1980, when she moved to the neighborhood.
“(We) met together and looked at what issues were going on in the area,” she said. “We had no standing with the city council.” They joined the neighborhood council program when it began in 1996.
The council quickly put its block grants to use. With just one public school within its borders, the neighborhood lacked playgrounds. The Parkwater and Stone park projects filled a gaping need.
They built Parkwater Park as part of a larger Parkwater project in the late 1990s.
“It took several years,” Gunderson said. “Their whole street system, the sidewalks and curbs got done.”
They built Stone Street Park in 2002 and upgraded it three years ago.
“It was just a vacant piece of land that two houses had been on,” Gunderson said. “There are a lot of rentals around there, which all mostly have kids.”
“Now, those kids don’t have to come down to Chief Garry Park,” Gardner said. “They can walk out their front door and go across the street.”
The neighborhood’s community garden, heading into its fourth year, got its start from another North Side neighborhood.
“The Bemiss neighborhood had a community garden, but because of the aquifer they had to shut it down,” Gardner said. “(They) donated what they had to us, to get us off the ground.”
The Christ the King Anglican Church donated the land for the garden. The church also hosts the council’s monthly meetings and runs the neighborhood’s annual Kidical Mass bike safety event. Kidical Mass is a national bicycle safety initiative, held locally through Summer Parkways.
“You teach the kids some bicycle safety ahead of the ride, and you go with them on the ride,” Gunderson said. The course is 3 miles long.
In addition to Kidical Mass, the council holds an annual Halloween fundraiser and a neighborhood Day in the Park. This year’s Day in the Park, at Chief Garry Park, is July 28.
The council has a strong social media presence, with active Facebook and Nextdoor pages.
“We’ve got 488 neighbors connected on our Nextdoor account,” Gunderson said. “That’s 13 percent of the neighborhood.”
The council is eager to put their ambitious, 20-year plan in motion.
“We don’t want to change the old-fashioned character of the neighborhood,” Gardner said. “But we want it to be vibrant.”
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