From American Whitewater
The Friends of the Falls Association has completed its campaign to raise $225,000 for the design, permitting and construction of the Spokane Whitewater Park. The campaign reached its goal recently thanks to a donation of $40,000 from Teck Cominco American, a diversified mining company headquartered in Vancouver, B.C., which has a regional office in Spokane.
In the Great Spokane River Gorge, one mile from downtown and next to the Sandifur Memorial Bridge, the Spokane Whitewater Park will feature two u-shaped structures built from large boulders. The structures enhance river access and create drops, waves and pools in the river for kayakers and other users to enjoy. The project also includes additional parking, landscaping, and a visitor center at the entry to People’s Park, which will benefit all users of the area including anglers, hikers, mountain bikers, residents of adjacent neighborhoods, and anyone using the Fish Lake and Centennial Trails.
The Whitewater Park is one of 15 priority projects in the Great Spokane River Gorge Strategic Master Plan. The Plan is inspired by the 100 year old recommendation of the Olmstead brothers that Spokane create a Great Gorge Park. A full copy of the plan is available from the organization’s web site: www.friendsofthefalls.org.
In addition to the group’s capital campaign, the project is funded by a $400,000 grant to the Friends of the Falls (FOF) from the 2005 state capital budget, and a $530,000 grant to the City of Spokane from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program authorized in the state’s 2007 capital budget. State funding was secured through the leadership of our local legislative delegation, and particularly Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown.
The Friends of the Falls kicked off the capital campaign with an Adopt A Rock party in April, 2006. In January of this year, with the leadership of Mayor Hession, the City of Spokane provided a major boost by donating substantially all of the large rock needed to construct the project. The rock comes from an excavation near the bank of the river undertaken as part of the City’s project to renovate the sewage treatment plant. The stockpiled rock can be seen from the Aubrey White Parkway. The City’s Public Works Department has also agreed to haul this rock to the project site.
Steve Faust, the Executive Director of the Friends of the Falls, said, “Teck Cominco American’s generous gift allows us to close out our capital campaign with the funds we need to meet the first of two Washington State requirements for release of a $400,000 state grant we received in 2005. The second requirement is an agreement with the City of Spokane for development of the facility. We have been working with the Spokane Parks & Recreation Department on that agreement for several months. We hope to conclude that agreement this month so that we can begin the permitting process for this project.”
In addition to Teck Cominco American, donors to the capital campaign include Mick & Shelley McDowell, Mountain Gear, Tomlinson Black, the Harriet Cheney Cowles Foundation, Red Lion Hotels, Walt & Karen Worthy, the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, Avista Utilities, Greenstone, REI, the Downtown Spokane Partnership, Global Federal Credit Union, Wendle Ford, Yoke’s Washington Foods, and the Spokane Association of Realtors. More than one hundred individuals have donated to support of the Whitewater Park capital campaign. (The complete list is found at www.friendsofthefalls.org.) Said Faust, “We have received great support from the community and want to thank everyone who has contributed financially and in other ways.”
Faust said the group hopes to start the permitting process in June, 2007, as soon as the State’s $400,000 grant is released. He added, “We are currently negotiating with design teams for their services to support this effort. There are several permits required, including a Shorelines permit with a fairly long lead time. Work on the in-river whitewater features is only possible in July/August of each year, when flows are lowest. Given the time needed to permit the project, we expect to begin construction of the whitewater features and support facilities in May, 2008, and complete the project in October 2008.”
Faust continued, “Throughout the past year we have been speaking informally with permitting agencies (mainly Fish & Wildlife and DOE), the Spokane Tribe, city officials, neighborhoods, local anglers, boaters, and others to understand their questions regarding the project. It is difficult to fully address anyone’s questions until we can actually begin the detailed design of the project. We do believe we understand each group’s issues and that these issues will be addressed in the project design. We are eager to do that, and appreciate the interest, patience and understanding the various groups have shown.”
The Whitewater Park is expected to attract whitewater enthusiasts and spectators from around the region, creating a focused center of activity in High Bridge Park and helping make the area safer for all citizens. Based on the experience of other cities, project supporters expect the Whitewater Park will return $1 to $2 million a year to the community in increased tourism and recreation-related spending.
As Faust points out, a whitewater park offers other benefits as well: “During the summer and early fall, the Park will provide an accessible facility to teach kayaking and whitewater safety in a realistic but predictable environment. We will remove several abandoned bridge piers just upstream of the site, and that will make the area much safer for all river users. In the spring, the Park will provide a key venue allowing Spokane to host a multi-day outdoor sports festival with competition in trail running, mountain biking, rock climbing, fly-fishing, rafting, and kayaking, all centered around the Great Gorge and Downtown Spokane. We think this will be a great project for the community and we are extremely grateful for Teck Cominco American’s support in helping to make it happen.”
Friends of the Falls is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of Spokane’s historic waterfalls and river gorge area through improved access, cultural awareness, advocacy and enhanced educational and recreational opportunities. One of the group’s main objectives is the implementation of the Great Spokane River Gorge Strategic Master Plan, the continuation of an idea originally proposed for Spokane by the Olmsted Brothers in 1908. A “Great Gorge Park,” as the famous landscape architects called it, would benefit Spokane and its regional inhabitants by preserving and activating one of the most unique and impressive landscapes found anywhere, especially within an urban context.