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The first skater at the Ice Palace was…

…a retired nurse who lives on the South Hill. His name is Gary.

I could have claimed the honor for myself, as I have on more than a few opening days. But Gary was there a few minutes ahead of me. And besides, he seems like a good guy. So I waved him ahead.

We were the only two skaters as the 2014-15 Ice Palace season got underway this morning at 11.

The ice was about what you would expect at an open-air rink with temperatures as warm as they are right now. Which is to say, not good.

But the fact that the folks at Riverfront Park managed to create any kind of skating surface this month is pretty remarkable. Hats off to them.

At one point, as I was gliding near one of the corners, I heard cracking and looked down to observe fissure lines like you see when a auto-windshield star grows long spider legs before your eyes.

If I had been on a lake in winter, I would have been worried. But at the Ice Palace, my harrowing plunge would have been about an inch at most.

Walking back to the paper, I vocalized my Burgess Meredith “Penguin” impression for the benefit of some waterfowl in the river. And I thought about how Expo '74 was wrapping up exactly 40 years ago.

As I often do, I felt an urge to thank all those who made that park a part of downtown Spokane.    

City of Spokane plans park/streets meetings

Spokane city officials will hold six public meetings this month on their plan to refinance bonds to raise money for street maintenance and the proposed Riverfront Park Master Plan.

The proposal involves refinancing three older bond issues, paying them off and raising an extra $25 million for streets and $60 million for the Riverfront Park plan. It would pay off the 1999 park bonds, the 2004 street bonds and the 2007 pool bonds, leaving the 91 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation in place, but extending it for 20 years. The two older bonds are due to expire this year, although the 2007 pool bonds have another 16 years.

City officials liken the plan to a homeowner refinancing to take advantage of lower interest rates.

For a look at the meeting schedule, click here to go inside the blog.

  

Spokane: A raging river is no place to play

    Like so many others in Spokane, in the spring I go down to pay my respects to the river. Fed by snowmelt and rain, the Spokane River swells and grows and becomes, seemingly overnight, a powerful monster roaring through the canyon it has chewed through solid basalt. 

 

    This dramatic sight draws people of all ages and the spectacle takes your breath away. Water spills over the falls, churns, boils and foams sending curtains of fine mist, droplets of water that ride the wind, coating the bridges, paths and spectators before it rushes on, making its way to fill the aquifer that quenches this thirsty land.

 

    This year, with so much snow and rain falling so late in the season, the river is at its wildest, just under flood stage. We were there on Saturday afternoon and we walked along the path to the viewing platform at the base of the Monroe Street Bridge. That is one of my favorite places to see the falls and feel the incredible power. The land drops away at the edge of the rail, the ground vibrates and the sound makes conversation difficult. We stood for a few minutes admiring the view and taking photos before we strolled up another block to the Post Street Bridge. 

 

    From there I noticed a group of boys on bicycles ride down to the place we’d just been. Gathering at the rail, they were roughhousing as boys of that age do, pushing, punching, shadowboxing as they peered down at the water. Suddenly, one of the boys climbed up and dropped over the rail in one fluid motion, landing on the deceptively thin layer of spongy soil covering the slick rocks abutting the concrete arch of the big bridge. He moved to the edge of the steep slope that plunges down to the raging water. 

 

    My heart slammed against my ribs and I heard myself make an instinctive, involuntary, sound like a frightened animal. I was terrified he would slip at any minute. The ground was still soaked from days of rain and there was nothing to reach out and grab if he lost his footing. And the river, always dangerous, is completely unforgiving at this stage. Whatever falls into it is quickly gone forever. 

 

    I looked for my husband but he was out of sight. I raised my phone to call 911, sure that if I took my eyes off the boy he would be gone when I looked up, but at that moment one of his friends must have called him back because he turned and just as quickly hopped back to safety.

 

    “Oh, you stupid boy.” I whispered. “You stupid, lucky, boy.”  

 

    The group stayed another few minutes—long enough for me to snap a photo—and then hopped back on their bicycles and moved on, off to swagger and impress one another in other ways, I suppose. 

 

    I finally walked away but I was still trembling.

 

    I keep replaying the scene in my mind, thinking how one wrong step could have changed everything, but I doubt the boy has given it a second thought. 

 

    I know this is nothing new. 

 

    When my children were that age they laughed at my constant worry. They thought I was simply overprotective, but the truth is, I was unhinged. They had no idea how many dangers there were outside our door and I suppose I believed if I could think of it and warn them against it (whatever it was) I could somehow protect them. New fears would hit me in the middle of the night. What if… What if… What if…

 

    At that age—adolescence and early adulthood—we are vulnerable because we have not yet developed an awareness of just how fragile we truly are. Age, experience, and exposure to the shocking misfortune of others gradually brings on the understanding that at any given moment any of us is fair game to tragedy. Terrible things can happen when we least expect it.  

   

    Eventually, wisdom—and with it a greater chance of survival—comes with the understanding that the reckless make themselves better targets. So most of us grow cautious, careful. Some of us become worried mothers and fathers, nagging our children to take care.

 

    Perhaps one day, when he is a man and he’s watching a teenage son drive away, the same lucky boy will remember the day the river didn’t get him and he’ll call out,  “Hey, don’t do anything stupid!”

 

    But his boy will not look back, and the words will roll off his back like the clean, cool, spray from a waterfall. 

    

     Note: The group of boys mentioned in this column appears in the photo above.

 

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

Ice Palace season goes out with bang

March coming in like a lion was perfect in at least one regard.

Snow and cold made for a classic ice-skating backdrop as the Ice Palace at Riverfront Park wrapped up its season today.

The ice at the open-air rink is kept cold by artificial means. And some years, on the last weekend, it's all the chilling technology can do to keep the rink from turning into a shallow pond. But not this year. Today they could have shut off the power and the skating surface would have maintained integrity.

If you are one of those people who hate everything about winter, I feel sorry for you. Perhaps you should move.

Spring will be here soon enough. But today, Riverfront Park quietly celebrated the one season that overlaps the years.

A time-honored seasonal exchange

Skating season at the Ice Palace doesn't begin until Wednesday.

But I walked over to Riverfront Park yesterday and took a look at the gleaming ice.

When the guy driving the resurfacing machine rolled by where I was standing, I initiated the obligatory exchange.

“Looking good.”

“Gettin' there.”

City Hall Scoop: Foot bridges and vegetated roofs

There were enough members for a quorum, but the dais was a bit spare at Monday's regularly scheduled Spokane City Council meeting.

Councilman Jon Snyder, acting as council president pro tem in Ben Stuckart's stead, politely led the charge through the hour-long meeting. Councilman Mike Allen was also absent. 

Members voted on an emergency spending request put forth by Snyder to shift $350,000 out of general fund reserves to pay for comprehensive inspections on 11 bridges, mainly in Riverfront Park. Our previous story here said nine bridges would be checked, but two bridges on the Fish Lake trail were added. 

On his blog, Snyder said the bridges are “vital bike riding and walking links for our City, a City that has precious few places for those using non-motorized to cross our river.”

Kelly Cruz, who failed to get past this month's primary in the race to replace the term-limited Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin, spoke against spending so much money on inspections when he said some of them were thoroughly inspected four years ago by CH2M Hill.

“I just want to make sure we're not spending money on something we've already covered,” he said.

George McGrath, a vocal fixture at the council meetings, spoke against the plan.

It passed 5-0. Usually members light up a screen showing their yea's or nay's, but with Stuckart gone and city Attorney Mike Piccolo befuddled by his first time use of the electronics, Snyder called for a voice vote.

The council also approved a low impact development ordinance, which encourages developers to utilize innovated approaches dealing with stormwater.

As Councilwoman Amber Waldref said on her blog, “developers will be able to manage stormwater onsite either through traditional methods like swales OR choose rooftop gardens, rainwater collection or rain gardens on their properties. These will be optional, but it is a start for Spokane.”

We wrote about all of this earlier here. Check out the city's website on it here.

Bart Mihailovich, with the Spokane Riverkeeper, said the LID ordinance was an example of the city working across departments to solve problems. 

As for dealing with stormwater on site, Mihailovich said, “This is certainly the trend.”

It also passed 5-0.

Another resolution before the council regarding the appointment of committees to “prepare statements advocating voters' approval or rejection” of this year's ballot propositions was delayed for two weeks.

Finally, next week's meeting has been canceled in lieu of Labor Day.

Breaking Ground at Huntington Park

Flanked by earthmovers and pickups, with the Riverfront Park gondolas gliding overhead, Scott Morris talked fondly Tuesday of the year 1889, city parks, Spokane and the company he runs, Avista.

“We, in a sense, grew up together,” Morris said to a gathering of about 50 people from the city and Avista. The energy company was founded almost 125 years ago, and Manito and Riverfront parks were created, in part, by cooperation between his company and the city.

And now there’s another partnership between the city and energy company, and it will end with more outdoor public space.

As Morris and Spokane Mayor David Condon climbed into two bulldozers and moved some dirt around, a new Huntington Park moved that much closer to realization. The four-acre park runs along the lower Spokane Falls on the south side of the river. Huntington and Riverfront parks will be connected by a plaza running between City Hall and the old Washington Water Power building.

Spokane’s Downtown “Duck Man” a shining star of spring memories

WILDLIFE — Among the urban wildlife spectacles that stand out in Spokane's history, it's tough to beat the Duck Man's help in usering a brood of ducklings from their nest at Sterling Savings Bank to the water in Riverfront Park.

Joel Armstrong made some good catches in the May 16, 2009 episode  as he helped the mallard mother parade her 12 ducklings down the Lilac Parade route — just shortly before the parade started.

Video of the event rightly made national news, above.

Kudos to the bank, which stepped up and turned the event into a windfall for waterfowl at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Ever take someone’s picture here?

Or maybe you were the one in the photo.

www.kpva.org

Gravity and Ice vs. Princess Mania

Maybe it was just a regular skating class.

But it could have been a birthday party. A water bottle on the benches side of the boards at the Ice Palace had a special label announcing that Miriam turns 4 today.

There were several little girls trying to skate there at Riverfront Park late this morning. And, judging from their pink, sparkly attire, it seemed as if most of them were in the grip of princess mania. Even the bike helmets they wore had pincessy themes.

Which is why ice skating was the perfect activity.

Now one has to be careful when using phrases such as “knock some sense into them” when discussing young children. But until a proven vaccination is developed, ice skating seems like a great way to address the princess outbreak.

In ice skating, you have to bring your own magic.

And if you don't, well, “DOWN GOES FRAZIER!”

Falling on ice is extremely reality-based, even if you aren't falling very far.

It focuses the mind in a way that no toy unicorn can match.

The little girls did, in fact, experience a few spills. But they always got up. And it was no wand or tiara that got them back on their feet. It was their own fortitude.

Some of those little princesses might be delusional, but apparently they're also pretty tough.

It’s all fun and games until…

Nikki Moseanko and Dan Burrows, Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, load some of the 11 damaged park picnic tables to be repaired from the North Bank shelter area, Dec. 26, 2012 in Riverfront Park.

A phone call from work interrupted Dave Randolph’s Christmas morning.

The city’s labor foreman for Riverfront Park was about to watch his grandchildren open presents, only to learn that picnic-table vandals had struck again.

Putting a hold on family celebrations, Randolph and his crew arrived at Riverfront Park to find a pile of picnic tables cluttered with holiday decorations near the north shelter. He believes the structure collapsed sometime overnight.

“This one turned ugly,” Randolph said. “I hope to God nobody was on it when it came down.” Read more.

I admit, I think the work of the serial stackers is kind of cool, until I read stories like this. What do you think?

Spokane to close its IMAX at end of year

The IMAX at Riverfront Park only will be open for six months.

The Spokane Park Board on Thursday voted unanimously to close the theater after Dec. 31.

It will open for six months in the spring. Park officials estimated that shortening the schedule would save about $90,000.

Ice Palace opening postponed a week

Instead of opening on Friday, Oct. 19, the downtown skating rink is to begin its season on Friday, Oct. 26.

The ice is artificially chilled, but the Ice Palace is an open-air facility and the ice-makers need cooler weather to do their thing. 

Spokane Hunts Mystery Table Stacker

Using a bucket lift surrounded by caution tape, Miles Cooley of the Spokane Parks Dept. clears the hazard lights lined up on a giant stack of picnic tables at Manito Park Friday. Pranksters have built and left such stacks on at least two occasions this summer, requiring city employees to bring equipment used to prune trees to the site to safely unstack the tables. (Jesse Tinsley, SR)

City workers made an unexpected find while deconstructing the latest mysterious picnic-table pyramid at Manito Park on Friday afternoon. An Urban Forestry crewman discovered a handwritten note addressed to park employees at the top of the stack of 36 tables. The note was signed “SKFS.” It made references to recently constructed table pyramids at Riverfront Park and revealed that four teens are responsible for the latest stacking in Manito. “We heard that our riverfront table pyramids cost $500 each to remove,” the note reads, “yet they only took 4 teens 25 min to assemble sans equiptment! Please stop wasting taxpayer dollars.” The pyramid is the second at Manito this summer and the fourth in Spokane. City workers discovered a larger, nine-level stack of 45 tables Tuesday morning at Riverfront Park/Justin Runquist, SR. More here. (Inset: SR photo of a note found on one of the stacks of picnic tables)

Question: Should Spokane give top priority status to finding individuals responsible for stacking the picnic tables?

SpokeFest has incentive for early sign-up

BICYCLING – The orgnaizers of SpokeFest, the annual September bicycle celebration that branches out from downtown Spokane, are offering an early sign-up incentive:

Register online by Saturday (June 30) and you will be entered into a drawing to win one of two iPOD Nanos donated by Huppins or a Novara Corsa Comfort Bike from REI.

Choose from four different routes on Sept. 9:

  • 1 or 2.5-mile Park Loop and Bike Safety Rodeo,
  • 9-mile Spokane Falls Route,
  • 21–mile Classic River Route
  • 47-mile Four Mounds Route.

All of the rides and events start downtown and finish at the SpokeFair on the Post Street Bridge next to Riverfront Park.

Read on for more details.

Sex offender posing in park arrested

A Spokane sex offender is in jail after police say he posed for sexually explicit photos in Riverfront Park Tuesday afternoon.

James Ray Febus, 36, told police that “there was really no full nudity” involved, but Spokane police Officer Shawn Pegram showed him photos to the contrary, and Febus asked for a warning and said it had been an “error in judgment,” according to court documents.

Febus was arrested for indecent exposure, which is a felony because he has previous sex offense convictions for third-degree rape of a child and failure to register as a sex offender.

Police were called to the park about 3:45 p.m. after a security officer on a bicycle saw Febus exposing himself to another man who was taking photos in the seating area overlooking the falls and gondola route adjacent. The officer said anyone in the area could have seen Febus' genitals.

The photographer, Richard Craven, told police he took pictures as Febus exposed “his penis, testicles and buttocks,” according to court documents.

Febus was sentenced in April 2009 to prison for failing to register as a sex offender. He was convicted of the same crime in 2002 and 2005. He was sentenced to 26 months in prison in 1997 for third-degree rape of a child.

Going to the lake

The Ice Palace seemed like a true outdoor rink today.

An outdoor rink near the end of the skating season, that is.

Even though Riverfront Park's open-air ice surface is artificially chilled, the warm wind makes it all but impossible to keep it from turning into a bit of a pond.

You could still skate though. And a couple dozen of us did just that.

The guy who drives the ice resurfacing machine told me he had sucked up a phenomenal amount of water before the public skating session. But he admitted he was fighting a losing battle.

One hoodie-clad boy who looked to be about 13 fell in the middle of a wet patch and soaked up what seemed like gallons of frigid water. When he got up, he looked like he wanted his mother to magically appear and provide him with dry clothes.

If all the other kids had done that it might have mopped up a fair amount of the standing water. But I suppose I would have gotten dirty looks if I had suggested that.

(Expletive deleted) Toddler Tuesday

Many years ago, one of my SR colleagues was on the phone with an events promoter who complained that it was difficult to book acts into what was then called The Met because it seemed as if there was always “some kids puppet show” using the downtown theater.

Only he didn't say it quite like that. The actual version included a common vulgar intensifier. I'm sure I don't have to spell it out for you. It went right between “some” and “kids.”

My colleague and I found the juxtaposition of rough language and the image of an innocent activity to be sort of funny.

Anyway, I went over to Riverfront Park this morning. I might have been a little early for public skating. In any event, I found a children's group at the Ice Palace and they didn't show any signs of wrapping it up. So I headed back to work.

As I got near City Hall, I encountered another Ice Palace regular. I reported what I had encountered. And she knowingly said “Toddler Tuesday.”

So on my way back to the Review Tower, I came up with a plan.

If anyone asked me if I skated, I would say “No, it was #*$%@*# Toddler Tuesday.”

As it happens, no one asked. Which might be just as well.

Sometimes people don't realize when I am attempting to be amusing.   

A pocket full of posies

Walked over to the park to skate.  But I did a 180 when I saw the crowd of kids on the ice. Must have been some organized group.

If they resurfaced the ice before public skating, well, who's got that kind of time?

No problem. I want the Ice Palace to succeed, so I'm always pleased to see the place doing some business. I can go back another day.

Besides, I got to hear a tiny little girl near the rink imploring her parents to play “Ring Around the Rosie.”

The mom asked her how the song goes. And the little girl gave it a shot.

Her lyrics were a bit hard to understand. But hearing her effort made me glad I had walked over to the park.

Panhandlers, the furry kind

Went over to Riverfront Park at lunchtime for a little Ground Hog Day ice time.

After skating, I was walking through the park and saw this guy who looked to be about 70. A plump squirrel stood before him and appeared to be inquiring about the availability of snacks.

“Does he know you?” I asked the guy.

“Never seen him before in my life,” he said.   

Police call river rescue a ‘media circus’

Crews rescue a man from the Spokane River in Riverfront Park on Jan. 13. (SRPhoto/Meghann Cuniff)

Spokane police didn't mince words when describing a recent water rescue in Riverfront Park - they called it a “media circus.”

News crews were at the park Jan. 13 after hearing reports of a man in the river. Spokane firefighters pulled him to safety.

In a weekly report summarizing Spokane Police Department activity, police said the man was hooked mid-river on a rope and was “significantly hypothermic and non-responsive.”

“In the ensuing media circus, the male was rescued by boat, warmed up at the hospital, and booked for his outstanding Assault/DV warrant,” the report reads. Police believe the man was attempting suicide, according to KXLY.

The report details other police incidents that week, including man hit in the head with a hammer while he slept and a patrol officer who tracked burglary suspects using text messages.

The report is available here. An archive of monthly reports is available here.

Rescuers Pluck Man From River

Crews rescued a man from the Spokane River in Riverfront Park today. The man was pulled from the river about 12:20 p.m. after rescuers responded to reports of a man hanging onto a rope in the water west of the Looff Carrousel, said Spokane Fire Chief Bobby Williams. Story & photo by Meghann Cuniff/SR here.

Man pleads not guilty to murdering friend

A Spokane man accused of killing his friend in Riverfront Park after a night of drinking was arraigned today on a second-degree murder charge.

Yukio M. Rideb, 21, (pictured right) pleaded not guilty to killing Romero J. Vivit, III, 21, in a fight early Dec. 17.

Vivit's body was pulled from the Spokane River on Dec. 20.

Rideb and Vivit (pictured left) had been friends since attending North Central High School together.

 Rideb entered his plea before Spokane County Superior Court Judge Annette Plese. He remains in jail on $500,000 bond. His public defender is Anna Nordtvedt.

According to police, Rideb told detectives that Vivit needed to be hospitalized but was still breathing when he left him in the park after the drunken assault. He said he was so intoxicated that he didn’t realize who he was assaulting until he saw Vivit's shoes. Read more here.

Rideb’s trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 27, but that likely will be postponed.

Ice age

The ice was a little soft at the Riverfront Park rink this morning.

It was perfectly fine for skating. They do a good job at the Ice Palace. Someone who hasn't skated much wouldn't even notice. And with the weather we're having, it certainly was to be expected.

There are two schools of thought about whether soft ice makes skating easier, if not as efficient physics-wise. But I suspect it didn't seem soft to the kids who fell. And fall, several of them did.

It's a wonder anyone ever learns to ice skate, the joys of going down hard on an unyielding surface being limited as they are.

For young children, though, the falling distance isn't all that great. So most of them keep getting back up. (A few crawl off and never look back.)

I wanted to tell this one little boy (a repeat faller) that he really had guts. But it was apparent that he was concentrating and I didn't want to distract him.

New details in Riverfront murder case

A Spokane man accused of killing his friend in Riverfront Park after a night of drinking told police he was so intoxicated that he didn’t realize who he was assaulting until he saw his shoes, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Yukio M. Rideb, 21, (pictured) told officers Romero J. Vivit, III, needed to be hospitalized but was still breathing when he left him in the park early Saturday after the drunken assault. Rideb will remain in the Spokane County Jail on $500,000 bond after appearing in court today on a second-degree murder charge. Divers pulled Vivit’s body from the Spokane River on Tuesday.

Read the rest of my story here.

Past coverage:

Dec. 20: Murder arrest made in missing man's death

Condon will take oath at Clocktower, Stuckart at MAC

Mayor-elect David Condon will take the oath of office in front of the Riverfront Park clocktower at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 30, the city announced this morning in a news release.

A reception will follow in the Carrousel.

Council President-elect Ben Stuckart will take his oath on Dec. 28 at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, where he serves on the board.

Council members-elect Mike Allen, Mike Fagan and Steve Salvatori will take their oaths at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 29 in the City Council Chambers at City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.

None of the new city officials will officially take office until midnight on Jan. 1, but under state law they must take the oath of office within 10 days prior to that time.

Murder suspect expected in court today

Spokane police search Riverfront Park on Tuesday. Romero Vivit's body was pulled from the river later that day. (Jennifer DeRuwe/Spokane Police Department)

A 21-year-old man arrested after his friend's body was pulled from the Spokane River with what police described as “visible injuries to his body” is expected to appear in court this afternoon. 

Yukio M. Rideb (pictured left) was booked into jail Tuesday at 4:42 p.m., hours after Romero J. Vivit III was pulled from the river in Riverfront Park.

Family members found bloody clothes belonging to Vivit Saturday after he was last seen about 3 a.m. following a visit to the Revolver Bar, 227 W. Riverside Ave., according to police.

 Rideb and Vivit (pictured right) attended North Central High School together.

It's unclear what led police to identify Rideb as a suspect in Vivit's death, but Vivit is believed to have been assaulted in the park early Saturday.

Park staff told police of cleaning up blood near the Louff Carrousel that day after hearing of the missing person case.

Rideb is on state Department of Corrections probation for a year after pleading guilty in September to third-degree assault and violation of a domestic violence no contact order. He was arrested in August and spent 26 days in jail. He was released after sentencing with credit for time served.

In June, Rideb was sentenced to 29 days in jail for two counts domestic violence malicious mischief, a misdemeanor.

Rideb is scheduled to be appear in Spokane County Superior Court at 1:30 p.m. on a second-degree murder charge.