Spokane residents have mixed feelings about the city’s plan to curb noise and litter problems at a popular South Hill overlook that provides a panoramic view of the city.
A small stretch of land beside Cliff Drive recently was closed off to vehicle parking when city workers moved several dozen large boulders to the side of the road. The overlook is a popular spot to meditate and hold picnics, watch fireworks on the Fourth of July, and take graduation and wedding pictures. It’s also a magnet for young people who play loud music and leave behind garbage, according to some who live nearby.
“It can be a little crazy up there,” said Greg Jacobson, 20, a South Hill resident. “I’ve almost been hit on my bike multiple times by stoned kids up there smoking.”
Following a recent uptick in noise complaints in the area, Spokane police recommended that vehicles be blocked from the overlook. Officer Teresa Fuller said visitors generally ignored signs banning parking from dusk until dawn. City workers moved the boulders to the side of the road about three weeks ago.
The boulders previously sat closer to the edge of the cliff, allowing visitors to park beside the road. Now visitors are expected to park on one of the nearby streets, or use another mode of transportation.
“There’s really no place to park there now,” said Brian Coddington, a spokesman for the city of Spokane. “We really encourage people to walk or ride their bikes to enjoy the view.”
But the barrier may have created a new problem, said Tony Payne, 29, who walks his dog in the area. Unable to park off the road, many visitors have begun parallel parking on Cliff Drive, sometimes blocking traffic in both directions, Payne said.
“Generally speaking it’s kind of a recipe for disaster when you have vehicular access to sites like that,” said Rick Hastings, an urban planner with Studio Cascade, Inc. He added the boulders are “a good first step” in mitigating the noise and litter problems while keeping the place open to pedestrians. The next step should be surveillance and stricter policing, he said.
The problems on Cliff Drive have persisted for years. Cigarette butts and broken glass have accumulated across the flat viewing area. And on the steep, rocky hillside below, there are bottles, cans and fast-food wrappers tangled in vegetation.
Monique Cotton, a spokeswoman for the city Parks and Recreation Department, said some visitors raised safety concerns by getting too close to the edge of the cliff, while others threw bottles and disrupted neighbors.
“There’s trash cans, so it’s kind of ridiculous that they do that,” said Bethany Grenfell, 21, who visited the overlook Friday afternoon to take pictures with friends.
Grenfell said she’s disappointed some visitors have prompted the city to limit access to the area.
“When it comes to Cliff Drive, there are many creative solutions that should be considered before anyone even thinks about cutting off access to the city,” said Jess Ponikvar, 41, another South Hill resident. Ponikvar said his mother brought him to the overlook when he was young, and now he brings his family there to enjoy the view.
David Brown, 44, said he hopes Cliff Drive will remain an iconic destination for Spokane residents.
“I see people coming out here early in the morning and feel they’re always very peaceful,” said Brown, who often passes the overlook on his morning run.
“They come out here to think.”
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