Community members have turned out for two recent public meetings to give input on an update to Spokane Valley’s Parks Master Plan, asking for more parks in the city and indicating what amenities they would like to see in the parks in the future.
The city has 12 parks encompassing 191 acres that include seven playgrounds, three pools and four splash pads. Two of the parks, Castle Park and Myrna Park, are unimproved and have no amenities. There are also two trails inside the city limits, the Centennial Trail and Appleway Trail.
“Unfortunately, for a city our size that’s extremely, extremely low,” said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Stone.
Funding constraints dictate how many parks the city has and what amenities can be put in them. Stone said the parks department receives 7% of the city’s annual budget.
Stone said the city’s Parks Master Plan was last updated in 2013 and is so old that the city no longer qualifies for federal grants for park projects. The summerlong project to collect input and update the plan will allow the city to get grants for parks again, he said.
The city has been making efforts to add amenities to its parks, Stone said. Last year the city put in eight sand volleyball courts in Browns Park, adding to the eight already there. The courts have been very popular, Stone said.
“There have been waiting lists,” he said. “This is the first season they’re all going to be used.”
Another large project is planned for Browns Park this summer. The city plans to add a perimeter path with lighting and replace the fence on the south and west sides. “It’s just in horrible shape,” Stone said. “We’re going to try to make it nicer.”
The picnic shelter and restrooms on the south edge of the park will be torn out and rebuilt in a different spot, and the shelter will be expanded during the process. A new picnic shelter will be built on the north side of the park near the sand volleyball courts.
One of the old volleyball courts next to 32nd Avenue will be torn out and a small skate park similar to the one at Pavillion Park in Liberty Lake will be put in. “It’s just our start,” he said. “We don’t have any skate facilities.”
Construction in the park won’t start until mid-August and should be complete by Nov. 1.
The city also recently received money from the state Legislature to replace the playground equipment in Browns Park and put in a picnic shelter and a small restroom next to it. “I don’t know if we can get it designed and built this year,” Stone said.
“We’re about 90 percent (done) once we get this project and the playground done,” he said of those two projects. The remaining plans would be to expand the parking lot and finish the perimeter fencing.
The city has also been busy building the Appleway Trail in recent years, which runs south of Sprague Avenue. Stone said the city hopes to build the last section from Evergreen Road to Sullivan Road this year. The project design is underway.
The city has gone back to the first section from University Road to Pines Road this year to add amenities that weren’t put in when the trail was built. “We did it with city money, 100%, and we didn’t have much funds,” Stone said.
The city has gotten more than $500,000 from the Washington Legislature to improve the section and has been adding benches, trash cans, landscaping near intersections and a restroom. At the time the project was completed the city didn’t put down enough top soil to sustain the native grasses planted there, Stone said.
“What resulted was a poor stand of grass and a great stand of weeds,” he said.
The grass was torn out, more topsoil was added and the area was reseeded. Stone said the area is not irrigated and the native grass, which won’t be mowed or manicured, may take some time to come in.
Stone said one of the most common questions he gets is what is going on with Balfour Park. The park is on 2.8 acres just north of Sprague Avenue near University Road. The city owns an additional 8.4 acres next door and several years ago a proposed design for the park was completed after community input, but there was never any money for construction, Stone said.
“I thought I might see that in my career,” he said of the Balfour Park expansion. “I’m not sure about that now.”
The plan for Balfour Park was completed so long ago that it needs to be redone, Stone said. It also called for a new library at the location, but the Spokane County Library District has been unable to get a construction bond approved by the voters.
The Parks Department will be collecting input on the plan for Balfour Park this summer as part of its update of the Parks Master Plan at various public events. The results will be reported to the community at an open house on Sept. 12.
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