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

Dog park frenzy: As controversy swells around South Hill amenity, two parks could be in the works downtown

A privately funded dog park in Riverfront Park could be one of two such amenities coming soon to downtown.

Plans for a place for pets to play had already been in the works long before controversy about the closure of a park on the South Hill, and organizers are now seeking a donor to help revitalize an underused shelter on the downtown park’s eastern border.

The Spokane Parks Department is in preliminary talks to bring two new dog parks to Riverfront Park, one abutting a luxury apartment project underway at Broadway Avenue and Post Street, and the other surrounding an existing pavilion purchased by the city after Expo ‘74.

The pavilion project has been under discussion since at least 2018, when the nonprofit Spokane Parks Foundation included a downtown dog park in its list of potential Riverfront Park amenities that could be privately funded in addition to the $64 million taxpayer-funded renovation of the park.

Spokane Parks Director Garrett Jones said the idea had been gestating long before the flap about a park on the South Hill near the site of the new Carla Peperzak Middle School, and that if a park were built with donor funds, it would likely be part of a larger effort to bring such attractions to neighborhoods throughout town.

“We get inquiries, we really need a dog park on the North Side, on the East Side,” Jones said.

Preliminary drawings, which are being reworked after the COVID-19 pandemic put the project on hold, included two options for parks using the Forestry Pavilion as a centerpiece. The options would include between 7,000 and 15,000 square feet of space for large- and small-breed dogs.

Either option would be smaller than the 11-acre dog park at High Bridge Park that’s been operated by SpokAnimal since 2011. But it would be larger than the dirt, fenced-in park at the intersection of Sprague Avenue and Adams Street on the west end of downtown, which has been in operation since 2019 and also maintained by SpokAnimal.

“I think when we look at the plans for the Forestry Shelter, it would have some type of destination component to it,” Jones said. “It would be a place to hang out with the owners and their pets.”

Building a dog park would be in line with the recent findings of a survey of park users about amenities they’d like to see, said Fianna Dickson, communication manager for Spokane Parks. A dog park was not included in the original 2014 plan for the renovation of Riverfront Park, but survey responses show an increased interest in an urban option, Dickson said.

“Early analysis is telling us dog parks are going to be one of the top requested features,” she said.

The Forestry Pavilion already has several desirable amenities for a dog park, including restrooms. It was moved to its current location north of the Lilac Bowl following Expo ’74, when the city purchased the building from Seattle’s Orr Construction Co. for $20,000. During the world’s fair, it housed an informative exhibit on the country’s forestry industry and was heralded for its unusual design.

Jones said the building’s current use, as a picnic shelter, could be enhanced with more features, including the dog park and upgraded bathrooms. He also said the shelter’s location might make it possible for dog owners to bring their pup to Riverfront even during events where they’re traditionally barred, including Pig Out in the Park and Hoopfest.

“In my mind, I would love to accommodate both,” Jones said. “But how we’re going to enforce and monitor that, we haven’t gotten there yet.”

The Parks Foundation, which also chipped in seed money a decade ago to help develop the dog park at High Bridge Park, is accepting donations to help offset the cost of building the park, said Terri Fortner, the foundation’s executive director.

“This is going to be our last big project for Riverfront Park. It’s a really good time to be doing this,” said Fortner, referencing the foundation’s approaching 70th anniversary. The foundation is also looking for funding to help rebuild the Expo butterfly statues, which were blown over in a windstorm earlier this year.

Park staff are composing what Jones called a “menu of options” for the amenity that could be selected by a private donor who wanted to pursue naming rights. Jones said the cost would vary widely based on the amenities added, anywhere from $250,000 to $1 million.

Those interested in donating to the park may get a keepsake for their donation. For $100, donors receive a stainless steel charm that will be hung on the fencing on the Blue Bridge.

The foundation is also looking for a naming rights donor to select the moniker for the park, Fortner said, for a donation of $250,000.

The other dog park option is at the handshake stage of development.

In June, the Spokane Park Board and developer Larry Stone signed a letter of understanding permitting builders to place a park adjacent to his planned three-tower apartment project The Falls, which is advertised as having units available by spring 2023. The park would be built at the northern terminus of one of the park’s suspension bridges and incorporate an existing gazebo shelter. It would be open to the public, as well as tenants of The Falls.

Jones said that option would be closer in scale and use to the small park at Sprague and Adams.

“The one on the North Bank I see as one of those areas early in the morning, you take them there and let your pet go to the bathroom, throw the ball a couple of times, and then head to work,” he said.

Jones said even if both parks are built, that likely won’t be the end of locating parks throughout the city. A focus group has been formed as part of the department’s long-term planning effort to look at options in other parts of town.

“Animals have different needs,” Jones said, citing parks, off-leash areas and other potential spots for playing with pooch. “I think we’ll be looking at a combination of those, across the city.”