The only souls pausing on Friday morning to take in a new view of the Spokane River near the headquarters of Avista Utilities Corp. were a gaggle of squawking geese.
A smattering of cyclists and joggers instead kept their eyes forward, navigating a stretch of the Centennial Trail a third of a mile long that has been permanently taken off a road network that had 4,300 cars per day, according to the city’s most recent traffic count.
“One thing I’ve noticed is how quiet it is compared to when the road went through there,” said Meghan Lunney, Spokane River license manager for Avista. “You’re not playing a game of ‘Frogger’ anymore.”
Avista and the city of Spokane agreed in 2019 to vacate the stretch of Upriver Drive between Mission Avenue and North Center Street, with plans for a 3-acre park to replace the existing roadway and pull down the jersey barriers that had separated trail users from motorists heading north from downtown. Some motorists complained about the traffic revision, with planners countering that the detour would now send them north on Perry Street using controlled, lighted intersections and allow bicyclists and pedestrians unimpeded use of a section of the trail.
The park, built for roughly $2 million with the contract work completed by the landscape architecture firm Land Expressions, now has north and south entrances with parking for roughly 25 vehicles. There’s additional parking in the lot at Mission Park, with the trail connecting at the intersection of Mission and Perry. Also located at that intersection will be both an eastbound and westbound stop for the City Line, the bus rapid transit service from the Spokane Transit Authority slated to begin running next year.
Nonmotorized transportation options and trail safety are both benefits of the Upriver Park project, said Loreen McFaul, executive director of the Friends of the Centennial Trail.
“It’s everything you can dream of in a trailhead and a community access point,” McFaul said.
Benches and picnic tables dot the landscape, and the trail has been widened in the area to 12-feet across. Sightlines have been improved with the removal of nonnative vegetation, replaced by saplings planted between the trail and bank of the river. There’s also a gravel path that serves as a put-in for nonmotorized watercraft, included kayaks and paddleboards, for those who may want to float to No-Li Brewery for a beer or pop out underneath the Division Street bridge downtown.
That amenity is intended to fulfill a requirement Avista has, as a landowner along the river, to provide recreational opportunities to the public, Lunney said. The utility wanted to ensure that other shoreline landowners would have an example of a simple design for boaters to access the water.
Avista has partnered on the project with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which owns the land between the trail and the river. Users of Upriver Park will be subject to the rules of the city’s park system, including hours that end at 10 p.m. and a prohibition on illegal camping or fishing. Signs are posted in the park warning users of the applicability of city code, and the path is lighted as well as overseen by private security.
The beach access and amenities give city park users an experience different than what is available elsewhere on the Spokane River, said Garrett Jones, the city’s parks director .
“This gives the citizens another opportunity, to do paddle boarding, kayaking, those types of passive recreation,” Jones said.
The launch at Upriver Park could spur other developments in the area for river users, including the historic boathouse behind Mission Park and the nearby Witter Aquatic Center, or farther west along the river at Greene Street, where construction of the North Spokane Corridor project continues, Jones said.
The completion of Upriver Park marks another milestone in improving the Centennial Trail, built for the Washington centennial between 1989 and 1991, but there are still several sections that need attention, McFaul said. Chief among them is what trail planners refer to as the Argonne gap, a five-block section of trail that follows Upriver Drive to its intersection with the busy arterial.
“There are 25,000 to 30,000 cars per day heading south along Argonne Road” near where the trail crosses, McFaul said.
While Upriver Park is open for users, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for June 2, when the weather improves, Lunney said. The event will bring together the city of Spokane, Avista and the Centennial Trail boosters to laud a new connection to the river with fewer cars inhibiting progress.
Lunney hopes all those users will thin out the geese numbers a little bit.
“Word is getting out for sure,” she said, laughing. “I don’t know who gave the special invitation to the geese.”
Work to watch for
Curb ramp construction continues this week in areas where the city is performing grind-and-overlay projects.
Shoulder closures will be in place through Thursday on 14th Avenue near Cannon Hill Park, at Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe streets.
Crews will construct curb ramps on Browne Street at Fifth and Sixth avenues on Thursday and Friday. Crews will work on the shoulders of Fourth Avenue at Bernard and McClellan streets on Friday and Saturday.
The eastbound curb lane of Fourth Avenue between Lincoln and Wall street downtown will be closed and detoured Monday.
Westbound traffic on Riverside Avenue in downtown Spokane will be reduced to one lane this week as construction continues on the City Line bus rapid transit service.
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