The future for our parks

I’m thinking a lot these days about our need for a vision for Spokane parks. This came up because of the proposal to have the county commissioners use Conservation Futures funds to purchase the YMCA Building.

As a community, we lack context for this decision. The community developed the Gorge Master Plan through a large-scale and inclusive process, and today Friends of the Falls has a document that anyone can go to in order to see the overall vision.

Where is the corollary for Spokane’s parks? The Olmsted Brothers had a vision, which included the Spokane River Gorge as the heart of a network of parks within walking distance of every neighborhood. That vision needs to be updated as the city grows.

Our understanding of parks has come to include more natural spaces like the gorge, not just parks that require mowing and sprinkler systems. The fastest-growing recreational pursuits are those like kayaking, climbing, and mountain biking—not ones that require sports leagues with refs and equipment.

Don’t get me wrong—I still want the traditional beautiful green spaces. I still want to go to the Japanese Gardens and the manicured parts of Manito Park.

But when we go there, our younger kids spend only a little time on the playground equipment before they want to climb to the top of the big rock on the north side of 17th as it comes into Manito.

I think they represent the future, and I want to see parks that will meet their needs and preserve wild, open experiences, both close to downtown like the Spokane River Gorge, and farther away like some of the other CF purchases.

What I don’t want to see is the same question being asked years from now, at the end of the YMCA building’s life, that we are asking today: How did we get to this point? Why do we lack an overall vision that provides context for individual decisions on parcels and projects?

Our elected and appointed officials and public employees need to create the open forum necessary to understand and weigh the options.

At the end of the day, maybe it will in fact be the case that use of CF funds for the YMCA Building fulfills a public purpose. That purpose needs to be understood and shared before the purchase.

The larger questions of a vision for our parks and river, with a plan for maintenance and operations, await.

1 comment :

  1. Nice, logical arguments... I appreciate your style (and revised yoga discipline)(patrisken@hotmail)


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