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Urban Archaeology: Unearthing pieces of Spokane’s past

 

 

     It early spring, when the Spokane River was a wild spectacle, swollen with snowmelt and spring rains, thundering over the jagged basalt falls, pouring through the deep canyon at the edge of downtown, I could not stay away. I kept going back to stand on one of the bridges or walk along the trail that follows the river’s path through the city.

 

     Sunday morning was my favorite time. There were fewer people around and I usually parked and walked along the north bank of the river on the newest section of the Centennial Trail beneath the Monroe Street Bridge and through the Kendall Yards development.

 

    At one point, near the base of the big bridge, the construction of the trail extension had left broken soil on both sides of the path, an open scar of freshly turned dirt, sprinkled with grass seed that had not yet sprouted.  As I walked I noticed a few pieces of debris that had been exposed by a scraper or the year’s unusually heavy rains: shards of white crockery, pieces of old china decorated with roses and other flowery designs, bits of glass that had turned lavender from decades of exposure to the sun. I was intrigued. I bent to pick up one piece and then another, and for a while I forgot about the river. The more I looked, the more I found. 

 

    I remember reading somewhere that the riverbanks on either side of the bridge, and the bridges that were there before the current span was built in 1911,  had been expanded with fill, dirt and detritus pushed over the edge, a practice that continued for decades. A good bit of it was probably the result of the 1889 fire that decimated the heart of the downtown district at that time.

 

    Now, having been plowed and pushed and scraped, yet again, time was upended and the evidence of the city’s human past was exposed revealing old patent medicine bottles, dishes that had broken and been discarded, tiles from houses and buildings.

 

    Knowing that in a few weeks, with the return of warm weather, the grass would grow quickly and obscure this mosaic of the ordinary lives of the men, women and children who upon which the future had been built, I went back as often as I could. Not with a shovel or an eye for any kind of treasure, just to walk with my head bent and my eyes on the ground at my feet. Sure enough, once the grass grew thick and green, the bits and pieces disappeared.

 

    The river in summer is more docile so I’m not there as often. But when I do walk the trail these days I am more aware of what is under my feet, that with every step I am walking on the hidden traces of other lives and other times.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the U.S. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

 

Holiday closures + tree disposal

Spokane City Hall will be closed on Fridays, Dec. 24 and 31, in observance of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
The Spokane City Council is not scheduled to meet on Monday, Dec. 27. Council meetings will resume on Monday, Jan. 3, with a 3:30 p.m. briefing session and 6 p.m. legislative session.  Both meetings will be held in the City Council Chambers in the lower level of City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
Parking meters don’t have to be plugged on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 24 and 25, and again on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
The Spokane Municipal Court will be closed on Fridays, Dec. 24 and 31.
All Spokane Public Library branches will be closed on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 24 and 25, for the Christmas holiday. In addition, all library branches will be closed on Saturday, Jan. 1, for New Year’s Day. 

Tree disposal:
the City’s Solid Waste Management Department offers free curbside pickup for its customers.  Once the decorations are removed, residents can place their trees alongside their garbage carts on their regularly scheduled garbage pickup days. The City will accept trees up to 6 feet in height; if they’re taller than that, cut them in half. Trees collected at curbside will be chipped up and composted. For information, call Solid Waste Management at 509-625-7878.
City and County residents also can take their undecorated, unflocked trees for disposal to the:
Waste-to-Energy Facility, 2900 S. Geiger Blvd.
Spokane Valley Transfer Station, 3941 N. Sullivan Road.
North Side Transfer Station, 22123 Elk-Chattaroy Road.
Here, trees taller than 6 feet should also be cut in half.Trees taken to these facilities are subject to a $5 minimum charge for clean green disposal; they will be composted. 
For more information, call the Recycling Hotline at 625-6800.
Also, watch for opportunities to dispose of trees and help a good cause. Scouts, school groups, and other charitable organizations will dispose of trees for a donation.

City hours on Thanksgiving

In observance of the Thanksgiving holiday, Spokane City Hall will be closed on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 25 and 26.  Municipal Court also will be closed both days. City libraries, the solid waste transfer stations, and the Waste to Energy Facility will be closed on Thursday, Nov. 25, and open regular operating hours for the rest of the weekend.
Garbage pickup and curbside recycling will be a day late during the week of Thanksgiving for those residents whose garbage is normally picked up on Thursday and Friday.  Because of the holiday, crews will do Thursday rounds on Friday, Nov. 26, and Friday rounds on Saturday, Nov. 27.
Parking meters don’t have to be plugged on Thanksgiving Day.  For the rest of the weekend, normal meter use rules apply.
The Riverfront Park attractions, including the Ice Palace, Imax Theater, Spokane Falls Skyride, and Carousel, are open on Thanksgiving Day and throughout the holiday weekend.  Go to www.spokaneriverfrontpark.com for information on hours of operation.

Via e-mail from the city of Spokane this morning

 

Country Mouse or City Mouse

I spent a few days in downtown Seattle recently. I love big city life. I enjoy the hustle and the bustle and the anonymity of blending in with the crowds. I love being able to walk everywhere, and the quiet oasises you find in the midst of urban sprawl. Alas, the condos across from my hotel were going for $600,000 to $6 million. A bit steep for my pocketbook. So, instead of downtown Seattle, I’m going to be renting an office in downtown Spokane for the summer. It will have to do.

I have a feeling I’m in the minority among Hucksters. Which lifestyle do you prefer, country life or city life?

Not to butt in on benches, but

Let me get this straight.

The Spokane Transit Authority wants benches at its bus stops.

A company that sells advertising has benches at many of those bus stops, where it rents the bench backs as signs for its ad customers.

The city doesn’t like signs on the backs of benches because they offend the aesthetic sensibilities of some city officials and residents. It has essentially made such signs illegal and told the ad company to remove the benches.

After the city makes the advertising company remove its benches, STA will spend $87,000 to put up new benches.

Who wins here?

 

House approves bill giving church-based tent cities broader protection from “unreasonable” city regulations…

Washington’s House of Representatives today approved House Bill 1956, which would give churches and other religious organizations broad authority to shelter homeless people.

Local governments couldn’t “unreasonably interfere” with tent cities or other homeless housing at churches.

Prime Sponsor Rep. Brendan Williams, D-Olympia, said a few cities are imposing too many conditions in an effort to prevent faith-based groups from helping the homeless.

“I don’t need Big Brother dictating to the members of my congregation how we respond to urgent societal needs,” he said. And churches shouldn’t have to tap the collection plate “in order to challenge the tyranny of those local governments” in court, he said.

Cities and counties oppose the bill, saying it’s heavy handed and ignores health and safety concerns with homeless camps set up in neighborhoods.

“From the big brothers here in Olympia, this is an interesting piece of legislation,” said Rep. Doug Ericksen, R-Bellingham. “This is an issue for city councils. The people who are closest to this particular issue are the ones who should be making the decision.”

The bill passed, 56-41.