Tag team guides bucolic Grandview/Thorpe Neighborhood
Thu., June 14, 2018
Like a rustic wallflower, Grandview/Thorpe sits quietly in the city’s southwest corner.
“We’re just a little bedroom neighborhood,” said Community Assembly representative Tina Luerssen. “There’s no through traffic; you don’t come up here unless you intend to come up here.”
Luerssen and council Chair Joy Sheikh like to have a little fun when they give people directions to their hillside community. “When you go up along High Drive, if you look across (U.S. Highway) 195, that’s where I live,” said Luerssen. “But you can’t get there from here.”
“I live out toward the airport. But not really,” said Sheikh, laughing.
Dotted with farms, ranches and homesteads, Grandview/Thorpe has the lowest population density of Spokane’s 29 organized neighborhoods. Its boundaries are Interstate 90 to the north, the Burlington Northern Railroad to the east, the city limits near 44th Avenue to the south and Assembly Street to the west.
The neighborhood is 100 percent residential. “We don’t have any commercial services within our boundaries,” Sheikh said. “We have no storefronts.” The lion’s share of homeowners live within a mile of Grandview Park, perched on the hill overlooking Finch Arboretum.
Council meetings often feature more speakers than listeners. “If there were a lot of problems in the neighborhood, we would have bigger meetings,” Sheikh said. “I think smaller meetings are a sign that not anything is wrong.”
Blissfully isolated from city politics, the council busies itself with trail connections, street paving, park improvements and movie nights. Members direct most of their angst toward 16th Avenue, the neighborhood’s only north-end arterial.
Grandview/Thorpe includes a number of hiking and biking trails, including the Trolley Trail Conservation Area. “It’s just a nice, scenic, flat unpaved trail,” Sheikh said.
Fish Lake Trail connects with the Columbia Plateau Trail near Cheney, providing a continuous 130-mile path from downtown Spokane to Pasco.
The neighborhood is preparing for a major paving project. “The city is chip-sealing our streets,” Luerssen said.
The process is common in rural areas, where streets get more wear and tear from weather than traffic. “It makes it a little bumpy for a couple of years, until it smooths itself out,” Luerssen said.
According to data from Find Spokane, Grandview/Thorpe has the worst streets in the city. “This is a way to preserve the roads, to try to make them last a little bit longer,” Sheikh said.
Grandview Park is the neighborhood’s social hub. Said Luerssen: “Ninety percent of the people that live here will drive by it every time they go in and out of the neighborhood.”
After purchasing 17 acres overlooking the park for a housing development, Greenstone Homes worked with the neighborhood council on park improvements, including a splash pad, a barbecue pit and a picnic shelter.
“And then the housing market crashed and (Greenstone) started doing Kendall Yards, so it’s still vacant, which is nice,” Luerssen said.
The park will soon have a permanent bike rack. Eagle Scout candidate Cody Eggleston organized a GoFundMe campaign to purchase and install the rack. Eggleston, whose parents serve on the council as treasurer and cleanup coordinator, respectively, will donate any leftover funds to provide bicycles to underprivileged children.
The council will host its third annual movie night on the park’s nearby soccer field. “We have fun flicks, bring in their big, inflatable movie screen and sound equipment,” said Sheikh. “Everybody in the neighborhood can just go park their chairs on the grassy area.”
Luerssen and Sheikh have yet to choose the title of this year’s movie. “We’ll have 4,000 text messages back and forth,” said Luerssen.
The biggest neighborhood headache is 16th Avenue’s treacherous hills and curves.
“That’s the most trafficked arterial in our neighborhood,” Luerssen said. “Every single person who lives up here – that’s like 300 households – has to use that road to get in and out of the neighborhood … and it’s not safe. There’s no striping at all, and there’s no sidewalk nor any room to walk off of the road.”
A Mobile Speed Feedback Sign placed on the downhill side of 16th in 2017 reported a 94 percent speeding rate. “It’s a 25-mph road, technically, but it’s a downhill arterial, so people go 35,” Luerssen said.
The council submitted an arterial traffic-calming project, asking for striping and signage to indicate that it’s a shared road with bicycles. “The response was that it doesn’t have enough traffic on it to warrant the expense of putting any traffic-calming measures into it,” Luerssen said.
The neighborhood council is not giving up that easily. “I want to invite our council people to our next neighborhood council meeting, to talk about getting (improvements to 16th) onto the street plan,” Luerssen said.
Living in a remote, isolated neighborhood means living away from amenities others take for granted. The nearest fire station is several miles down U.S. 195, and few of the city’s first responders are familiar with the neighborhood.
“We know if our house is on fire, it’s pretty much going to burn down. If you have a heart attack, you’re pretty much (on your own),” Sheikh said.
“But there’s a reason we live here: We love it here,” she said.
Residents like to leave food out for the neighborhood’s vagabond wild turkey population. Said Luerssen: “You’ll be going down 16th, and you’ll have to stop and wait for all the turkeys to decide which side of the road they are going to go to.”
“Same with the porcupines,” Sheikh said.
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