The roar of a chain saw filled the air at Riverfront Park on Thursday as workers began clearing the path for construction of a new fountain at the park’s entrance along Spokane Falls Boulevard.
The $1.5 million fountain – designed so that people can walk and play among its many water jets – is one of two large-scale improvements being undertaken on the south side of the park this year.
Workers last month removed the park’s vintage gondola as part of a $2.5 million upgrade of the breathtaking ride above lower Spokane Falls and gorge.
At the fountain site at Spokane Falls Boulevard and Howard Street, a demolition crew Thursday ripped out a small food concession building and cut down two sycamore trees standing in the way of the project.
Next week, crews will begin removing pavement as part of the job of digging a 14-foot-deep hole to contain the fountain’s hidden reservoir vault, said Dan Seibel, superintendent for Walker Construction of Spokane, the general contractor on the job.
A large vehicle pullout area near the Carousel is going to be blocked off during construction and will eventually become part of the fountain’s pedestrian plaza. The pullout is frequently used by school groups and visitors, who will now have to go elsewhere for loading and unloading.
Work is expected to be completed in August, Seibel said. Much of the initial work on the vault system will take place below ground level.
“It’s going to create a real grand entryway to the park,” said Park Board President Jeff Halstead. “I think it will be a great gathering place for people.”
The idea for the fountain dates to the creation of Riverfront Park in the 1970s, but it gained momentum in the 1990s when the city Park Board and Rotary Club 21 members teamed up to finance the project.
Rotary has raised $850,000 in contributions and is still seeking donations. The Park Board has authorized spending $550,000 out of a voter-approved park bond issue dating to 1999.
Proponents said the fountain will create a free summertime play feature in the heart of the city. It will also become a prominent piece of civic art with year-round displays of water, colored lights, music and even winter ice formations.
The work of Spokane artist Harold Balazs is being incorporated into columns that will support an overhead fountain sculpture. More than 150 jets capable of throwing 3,500 gallons of water a minute will send out a variable pattern of mists and streams from ground level to a height of 40 feet.
The underground vault will recapture the water and filter it so that users can safely play in the sprays. The fountain will be accessible to wheelchairs.
Perron Collaborative, of Spokane and Portland, has been heading up design of the project. It enlisted the fountain expertise of CMS Collaborative, of Santa Cruz, Calif. The electrical subcontractor on the job is Power City Electric, of Spokane. A crew from Rob’s Demolition of Spokane was hired for the initial clearing Thursday.
Also this year, the parks department is going to revise the landscaping at the east end of the park where a small performance area is tucked behind trees and a low ridge. One of three wooden foot bridges is slated to receive new decking as well.
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