Spokane County commissioners Kate McCaslin and John Roskelly this week took a warm afternoon walk around the proposed site of the Mirabeau Point community complex.
“The performing arts center is right over there,” said Greg Bever, gesturing toward the former Walk in the Wild Zoo parking lot.
Not literally. Just now, that stretch of ground holds weeds, grasshoppers and a view of the Spokane River. The Centennial Trail runs right by it.
McCaslin and Roskelly gave no sign of to what extent they might support Mirabeau Point. Wednesday’s walk-through was their chance to see the community complex dream, with Bever and Denny Ashlock, the project’s two major promoters and organizers.
The two men spout ideas.
Bever, the longtime Valley operations manager for The Spokesman-Review who this week was named associate publisher of the Journal of Business, talked about a youth honor wall to be built close to the trail, with plaques singling out the community’s finest young people. Ashlock, a Valley insurance executive, talked about a possible land trade for nearby property owned by the Department of Natural Resources. The group walked and talked about the proposed pieces of Mirabeau: amphitheater, nature trails, county park, senior center, social services center.
For all the talk about tomorrow, though, yesterday’s dream was hard to erase. Walk in the Wild’s former buildings and exhibits have been torn down. But something lingers. Perhaps the spirit of Tigerlily, the zoo’s best-known striped resident?
Where rock cliffs once shaded the big cats, Ashlock now envisions a stage with the cliffs as a backdrop. Ground that slopes toward what was the petting zoo and otter pool would offer amphitheater-style seating.
Eleven acres where the horses, elk and buffalo used to graze would make an ideal park, Ashlock told the commissioners. Mirabeau has committed to designating five to eight acres for a county park. This piece of land lies just inside the elbow curve of Euclid Avenue. The Centennial Trail, again, is within spitting distance.
Another possible Mirabeau component, a park with handicap access, might wind along the old wooded zoo trails, Bever said.
Two other components of Mirabeau have been penciled in on the southern side of the property. Land could be available for a building that would house offices for social services not now available in the Valley. Even further south are 11 acres earmarked for the YMCA’s aquatic complex.
Ashlock led the group back over the hill, out of the woods and past the corner where the coyotes used to pace. At about where the old snake building was, the group stopped to gawk at the new Spokane Valley Mall, rising in the east.
Standing on that old dirt road, with the rumble of Interstate 90’s afternoon traffic picking up in the background, commissioners had visual and auditory reminders that they weren’t just standing in some old field. They were standing on a hot piece of the Valley’s future.
“Someone will develop this. If it isn’t Mirabeau, someone will,” McCaslin said. She also worried out loud about transportation, in particular the distance between Mirabeau, the mall and future development around the mall, and the old Milwaukee Railroad right of way, the corridor proposed for a light-rail system, south of Sprague Avenue.
“That’s really a problem for me,” McCaslin said. “Why could we not bring the light rail here?”
Never mind light rail. One of the more immediate challenges for Mirabeau planners is where to locate the five-lane road planned for the property.
“Where do we put this road so it’s not an obstacle for people to cross?” Ashlock said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
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