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Hopes for a South Hill dog park have been dashed by safety concerns, so where to now?

Aug. 19, 2021 Updated Sat., Aug. 21, 2021 at 3:39 p.m.

Tom Nesbitt visits with dog walker Gloria Riggers on Friday as their dogs enjoy an off-leash experience at the South Hill dog park behind Mullan Road Elementary School. The park will soon be closed to make room for a new middle school.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Tom Nesbitt visits with dog walker Gloria Riggers on Friday as their dogs enjoy an off-leash experience at the South Hill dog park behind Mullan Road Elementary School. The park will soon be closed to make room for a new middle school. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

In the summer of 2018, dog lovers on the South Hill were promised a new place to roam when the time came to build a new school.

Three years later, they’re about to be evicted from the no-leash park, with no plans of a long-term solution being offered by Spokane Public Schools or the City of Spokane.

“It’s devastating,” Linda Valentine said Friday morning as she walked with Faith, her 3-year-old shepherd mix, at the popular dog park located on 63rd Avenue.

Along with other owners, Valentine will be looking for some answers during a public meeting Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Mullan Road Elementary School.

Groundbreaking is only two weeks away for the new Carla Peperzak Middle School, part of a $495 million capital bond approved by district voters in 2018.

Having been reassured there would be a place for their dogs on land adjacent to and formerly occupied by a landfill, they backed the bond.

“We felt good about supporting the bond, based upon those promises,” said David Delong, a member of the board of Friends of the South Hill Dog Park.

However, the district learned only last month from the city that the land is unsuitable for public use. It’s unclear when the city learned of the problem, but it didn’t inform the district until July.

The city and the school district have tried to regroup. During a meeting last month, Spokane Public Schools proposed a 2-acre park in a different location, but that was rejected as too small.

The current site covers about 15 acres.

“That was really a nonstarter for us,” Delong said.

Shawn Jordan, chief operations officer for the district, said it will offer two new temporary proposals at Tuesday’s meeting. Both would be on school property.

The city and the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department are expected to address the issue of a long-term solution.

However, Garrett Jones, director of parks and recreation, said Friday that while the city “has (long-term) options that we are identifying, it’s early on in the process.”

That message probably won’t play well on Tuesday, as dog-park users feel that the process is back at square one after three wasted years. They’re also skeptical that the city will move quickly to find a long-term site.

Opting to be proactive, Delong and the board have offered four suggestions for long-term sites:

• Hamblen Park. Centrally located on 6 acres of flat wooded land in the middle of the South Hill, it would be an “acceptable” choice, Delong said. The site would need fencing.

• The Hazel’s Creek Drainage and Conservation Facility, a large regional stormwater management project located southeast of Ferris High School and west of Freya Street. The area is already used by pedestrians and dogs.

• Upper Lincoln Park, south of the pond loop. Located off Southeast Boulevard and about 8 blocks north of 29th Avenue, it already has trails. It would require a parking lot and fencing.

• The Campion Park area, located just north of Hatch Road where it feeds into Highway 195. A large treed area, it also would require a parking lot and access off the freeway.

Other sites, perhaps on county land, could surface in the future; in fact, Jones said he’s had some informal discussions with county officials.

However, Jones said it’s premature to identify long-term candidates.

“I want to do justice to the process,” he said. “We are going to get to a recommended site. But we don’t want to give any false hope.”

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