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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Audubon Downriver council’s experienced leadership seeks neighborhood participation

Fran Papenleur, Jeff Stevens and Victor Frazier are the Audubon Downriver Neighborhood Council board members. (Terence Vent / The Spokesman-Review)
By Terence Vent The Spokesman-Review

A triumvirate with 44 years of combined board experience leads the Audubon Downriver Neighborhood Council.

“We have term limits, so the baton tends to be passed from one of us to the other,” said formerchair and current Vice Chair Jeff Stevens.

Stevens has been serving on the council since 2000. The chair, Fran Papenleur, joined the council in 2009, and former Chair Victor Frazier has been a member since 2003.

“Most of us were mentored by people who were involved in this neighborhood for a long time,” Stevens said. Spokane Park Board president Chris Wright and former Spokane City Council president Joe Shogan helped start the Audubon Downriver council, Stevens said.

The council’s stability led to at least one popular, long-standing tradition. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the neighborhood’s first Concert Under the Pines.

“(The council) started the concerts in Spokane,” Papenleur said. “We were on the cutting edge.”

Frazier took over the concert series in 2006. “People come from all over,” Frazier said. “They bring in a picnic basket – just their family, their kids – and they all enjoy a free concert in the park.”

This year’s Audubon Park concert, scheduled to open July 19, will feature Nashville recording artist Nicole Lewis, who won season three of KHQ’s televised singing competition, “Gimme the Mike.”

Stability also gives the council enough confidence to plan layered, long-term projects. Among the council’s current projects are a 20-year plan to refurbish the Shadle Center corridor and a large-scale cleanup and clarity plan along the north bank of the Spokane River.

The council wants to get the neighborhood invested and involved. The neighborhood is bounded on the east by Ash Street, north by Wellesley Avenue, west by the Spokane River, and south by Downriver Drive, TJ Meenach Drive and Fairview Avenue .

“We’re taking on some big projects, and we need some people to participate,” said Stevens. “When you talk about planning, people’s eyes kind of glaze over, but it’s got to be a collaborative thing.”

Shadle Park straddles the Audubon-Downriver and Northwest neighborhoods, so the neighboring councils are collaborating to give the west side commercial center a facelift. Empty buildings need tenants, traffic needs smooth flow and pedestrians need safe passage across the busy streets.

“That is the commercial center for these neighborhoods,” Stevens said. “We want to make sure it serves both.”

The councils want to improve security at Shadle Park. “We want it to be usable and friendly,” said Papenleur.

“People used to feel safe in the park, but they don’t anymore,” Stevens said. “How do we take (it) back?”

The councils have already redesigned the Shadle Park amphitheater. “It was declared a blight,” Papenleur said.

The redesigned amphitheater will host two concerts this summer: the Lilac City Community Band will perform July 12, and the Ken Davis Band will take the refurbished stage July 26.

The riverbank project is still in the early planning stages. New hiking and biking trails, plans to maintain and upgrade facilities, and options for keeping the area clean and safe are among the issues the council is bandying back and forth.

“We all come to it with our own ideas,” Stevens said.

Papenleur brought up the kayak access area under the T.J. Meenach Bridge. “We want to make sure that’s clean and safe,” she said. “It’s a challenge”

The area through and around the Downriver disc golf course presents its own set of problems. The area needs organized parking, restrooms, garbage cans, and safe, clarified access routes through the course to the river.

“The disc golf people have been very active in the planning of that area down there,” Stevens said. “We like the fact that it’s popular, but we want to make sure people are not abusing the land.”

The council is open to ideas about where to carve out new hiking and biking trails and on how to keep the riverbanks clean, safe and accessible.

“If (residents) have plans or designs about the river … they should participate in our planning process,” Frazier.

The council’s plans for the Northwest Boulevard corridor include a pedestrian crossing at Alice Avenue and speed feedback signs facing both directions.

Said Stevens: “Northwest Boulevard is the main route from Stevens County into the city; there are some speed issues. We are looking at how to slow traffic down, to make sure people can still get across safely.”

The council is working with Transitions to ensure smooth interaction between the neighborhood residents and the nonprofit’s cottage project at Hemlock Street and Fairview Avenue. “It’s one of those projects that I’m hoping is going to work well in our neighborhood, and be an example for other neighborhoods,” Stevens said.

The council issues annual dump passes for neighborhood cleanup.

“It draws a lot of people,” Stevens said. “We’ve toyed with other things; it seems like the dump pass is the most effective.”

The council holds monthly meetings at Finch Elementary School. Stevens encourages neighborhood residents to bring their concerns to the council’s attention.

“Even if we can’t fix it, we can be a voice,” Stevens said. “More often than not, though, there is some kind of solution.”