Spokane Parks releases draft master plan with long-term strategies for new amenities and upgrades

A new community park in the North Indian Trail neighborhood.

At least one dog park and one pickleball or all-purpose court in each of the city’s three city council districts.

Address the role of urban parks in homelessness issues.

These are some of the proposals included in the latest draft of Spokane Parks and Recreation’s Parks and Natural Lands Master Plan, a document designed to guide investment and development in the city’s approximately 3,800 acres of parks and natural lands. city ​​over the next six years. .

Parks and Recreation released the draft last week, and the Spokane Park Board is expected to vote on the document on June 9. The ideas it contains come from months of surveys, meetings, workshops and other events.

“Now we’re at a stage where we’ve listened to the public, who have given us great feedback. We’ve written a plan,” said parks manager Garrett Jones. Have done.”

Park bond initiatives in the past have supported park improvement projects. Whether the city could take the same path here is a strategy the department will consider in the near future, Jones said.

Parks staff worked with consultancy firm Design Workshop to develop the project. It is intended as a living document, which can be updated as funding opportunities, trends and desires change over time.

“There’s a lot of transparency in this plan about what’s going to be done, with how and when, which you don’t always get in a plan like this,” said Design Workshop’s Anna Laybourn, who led the Spokane consulting team. master plan document. “The city wants to make sure how it gets to that overall vision.”

Spokane Parks’ most recent system-wide master plan dates back to 2010. Washington State requires Spokane Parks to have an up-to-date plan for grant eligibility through agencies such as the Recreation and Conservation Office.

While previous master plans have typically been built around input from staff and city officials, Jones said Spokane Parks wants this iteration to be “a public, community-led plan.” Thus, Parks and Recreation collected more than 5,000 responses through various means, about five times more than was collected in 2010.

The level of public input into formulating Spokane’s draft plan exceeded Design Workshop’s expectations when compared to plans the company has done with cities of similar size, Laybourn said.

She said the consultant was particularly impressed with the city’s ways of raising awareness, such as holding workshops in schools to gather student feedback or recruiting volunteer ambassadors, including those from the sans community. -shelter.

“From youth to low-income people to every area of ​​the city represented, we had multiple ways to gauge whether we were on track to receive the kind of feedback we needed to be broad and inclusive,” Laybourn said.

Parks and Recreation – aligned with the thinking of a 1913 plan created by the Olmsted Brothers, a major landscape architecture firm – sought to fill gaps in areas where parks and other amenities are either unavailable or difficult to access .

“The most important theme of this plan is the community’s focus on neighborhood and community parks,” Jones said. “We really haven’t had these major investments in our neighborhood parks since the 1999 bond, and it’s really only affected a certain percentage of those neighborhood parks.”

Proposed actions towards this end include concept plans for revamped versions of Minnehaha and Cowley parks as well as an idealization of what a new park might look like in the North Indian Trail neighborhood.

Currently, Meadowglen Park is vacant, undeveloped municipal property located at Indian Trail Road and Bedford Avenue. The city has owned the property since 1986, according to the draft plan.

Compared to other city neighborhoods, North Indian Trail has the highest percentage of residents who live within a 10-minute walk of a park, according to the draft plan.

Minnehaha Park is home to overgrown tennis courts, a historic building, and a small, aging playground. Meanwhile, Cowley — described as underutilized, with a reputation tainted by past negative activity and vandalism, Jones said — is located next door to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

The Minnehaha, Cowley and Meadowglen plans are listed as “level one” priorities in the draft document, which are recommended for implementation over the next decade.

Other top tier proposals include the acquisition of property east of South Ray Street in the Mid East neighborhood for the development of a future pocket park as well as land in the neighborhood of Shiloh Hills, east of North Nevada Street, for a community or neighborhood park.

Like Meadowglen, the project also calls for the priority development of three other vacant park properties in each neighborhood of the city: Wildhorse, Skeet-so-mish and Sterling Heights.

Along with dog parks, the plan recommends a survey to locate up to 10 potential sites for off-leash dog parks throughout the city. The city currently has only two public off-leash dog parks, both in the City Council district that represents South Spokane: Downtown Spokane Dog Park on Riverside Avenue and SpokAnimal Dog Park in the High Bridge Park.

Beyond new additions, the plan focuses on restoring parks like Minnehaha that are in poor or poor condition – namely, Courtland Park, Liberty Park, Grant Park, Summit Boulevard Parkway, North Maple Street Parkway and Logan Peace Park.

Another goal identified in the plan, as driven by community feedback, is updating and adding new park facilities, such as restrooms, trails, trailheads, fishing areas and bike skate parks in the North East City Council district and water access for kayaking, fishing and other activities.

To determine where to locate new parks and restore existing ones, the draft plan looked at equity gaps and underserved areas and populations that “don’t benefit as much” from the parks system as other parts of Spokane. , said Laybourn.

“The city has really invested in some of its incredible, iconic parks in the past,” Laybourn said. “What we’ve learned from the community is a desire to improve older or neglected parks that are central to daily life, and that will require additional funding that the city doesn’t have.”

Like other elements of the plan, the focus on homelessness in the plan was driven by community feedback, as the issue has been at the local and national forefront for some time, Jones said.

One of the goals of the master plan is to address the role and policies of parks and recreation in working in partnership with other city departments and agencies to address homelessness issues. According to the draft plan, parks departments nationwide vary in addressing homelessness. Some, for example, partner with organizations serving the homeless, and others sanction encampments.

Because parks staff often interact with homeless people, one of the strategies proposed in the plan to do so includes trauma-informed training for frontline staff.

Homeless people depend on park spaces for their survival, Laybourn said.

“I would really like to see Spokane be smarter than a lot of other cities in figuring out how to find that balance between everyone’s rights to exist in public space while maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for all park users,” a- she declared. . “We’ve given strategies and actions in this plan to help the city leapfrog where other cities struggle today to create that balance and show a compassionate and effective response.”

Michael J. Chiaramonte