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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane Valley considers $2 million purchase of 45 acres for new park

Spokane Valley City Attorney Cary Driskell shields his eyes from the sun Tuesday during a tour of a 45-acre piece of vacant property near the  Spokane River on Flora Road and Euclid Avenue  that the city of Spokane Valley is considering buying. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Valley City Attorney Cary Driskell shields his eyes from the sun Tuesday during a tour of a 45-acre piece of vacant property near the Spokane River on Flora Road and Euclid Avenue that the city of Spokane Valley is considering buying. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Valley has long sought to expand its network of parks as developers and industry continue to buy up land – and the city may be on the brink of doing so.

A 45-acre property that includes groves of ponderosas and access to the Spokane River in northeast Spokane Valley – and that the Washington State Department of Transportation most recently used as a place to dump and compost the remains of animals that were killed on state roadways – could soon become the city’s newest park.

With it, the city’s park land would increase by about 20%, growing from about 250 acres to some 300 acres.

City Attorney Cary Driskell said the city is one of several potential buyers for the land, which WSDOT recently surplussed. But because it was surplussed by the state agency, the city will get a first chance to purchase the property.

The city hopes to pay for the nearly $2.1 million property through city funds and a grant from the Washington State Recreation Conservation Office.

Mayor Ben Wick said even if the city isn’t able to get a grant, it needs to purchase the land before it’s turned into a gravel pit or housing.

He said he also doesn’t know of another property within city limits as large as 45 acres or with river access.

“If someone else acquires it, there’s no going back,” Wick said.

When the city was updating its park master plan last year, Wick said, many people expressed a desire for more park land, trails and amenities.

Last Tuesday, the City Council encouraged city staff to pursue the property and apply for the grant, which the city would use to reimburse itself for half the cost of the property. If the city is not awarded the grant, it will have to bear the full cost of the purchase.

To avoid losing the property to another buyer, the city will have to apply for a letter of retroactivity, which would allow the city to buy the property in the next month and reimburse itself with grant money it could be awarded later this year.

Melinda Ziemann, the relocation supervisor for real estate at WSDOT, said the property was first purchased in 1979 and used as a gravel pit.

She said state law requires WSDOT to give local governments first pick of surplussed properties and the $2.1 million assessed value is the lowest the state can sell the land for. If the city of Spokane Valley decides not to purchase the property, the department would be able to look at offers from private individuals and developers.

Driskell said staff members are currently gathering resources to acquire property for future recreation and park use. As for the 45-acre parcel, it would probably be years before the city finishes gathering feedback from the public on what to do with the land – or the money to develop it.

“It’ll be the next generation of city employees that will have to fund it and build it,” he said.

While the east side of the property does have some visible animal remains and markers of its most recent uses, much of the remaining land is fields and groves of evergreens, and evidence of the valley’s history of orchards and farms can be found throughout.

Spokane Valley Parks Director Mike Stone said the property could potentially be opened to the public once the city owns it for hiking or other recreation uses, and may very likely stay a natural area for the next few years.

A small corner of property adjacent to the river would be included in the purchase, but the remainder of the riverfront property near the proposed park is owned by the Washington State Department of Parks and Recreation. Stone said he anticipated the city would have some sort of agreement with the department to allow public access to the river.

If it is acquired, the property will be the second recent large parcel the city has purchased from the state.

Last fall, the city bought 14 acres next to Sullivan Park, doubling it in size.

Stone said the city is working to buy park land where it can because its current holdings for a city of nearly 100,000 are far less than what the city of Spokane or Spokane County owns and may not be enough for Spokane Valley’s future growth .

“This is going to benefit our future generations and our citizens,” Stone said. “Fifty years from now, we’re going to be thrilled that this council had the foresight to think about this because once this property is gone to some other use, you can’t get it back.”

The City Council still needs to formally approve the purchase of the property, which Stone anticipated could happen in the next few weeks.

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