Spokane, Washington is proud of its enormous waterfalls smack dab in the middle of the urban core, surrounded by Riverfront Park. It’s the only park in Spokane that encourages non-park uses such as movie watching at an almost 50-year-old originalwrap-around style IMAX theatre, riding classic amusement park rides like the tilt-a-whirl and ferris wheel, and taking a spin on an old indoor carousel. Previously, the park was the city’s rail yard. A product of the 1974 World’s Fair Expo, Riverfront Park has seen its prime as an industrial site, and many could argue it has long since seen its prime as a city park.
I believe this land has been used irresponsibly and wastefully- perhaps due to officials jumping at funding opportunities before actually considering whether something is worth investing in for Spokane’s specific situation, and perhaps even more so out of false hope for the future of the city’s core. The City of Spokane is in a County which provides worth assessments whether or not a parcel is taxable. Riverfront Park is worth… $82,904,860. If it was bought by a private entity and just sat there undeveloped for a year, the land itself would generate over 11 million dollars in tax revenue! Local schools would receive almost 2 million dollars alone, and Emergency Medical Response could use the extra half of a million dollars: ask anybody who has had a heart attack. The land could be put to better use for all if only the most valuable sites to the Parks Department were saved for the public.
On a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon the most residents were around the minimal playground equipment (one slide and two climbable sculptures, to the right) and the very large fountain which doubles as a splash pad. Mission Park, just a mile Northeast, is worth just $2.5 million and not a single picnic table, nor volleyball net, nor tennis court was vacant on this same afternoon. There are no sincere attempts at traditional facilities such as half-court basketball hoops, volleyball nets, or so much as a swingset are anywhere in all 100 acres of Riverfront Park.
How is this a park? What defines a park as such? Is it a land use code decision, number of passive or active facilities available in a space, or something different entirely? Furthermore, if the city did decommission perhaps just half of the park, what better way could those 50 acres be used for? Please let me know in the comments below!
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.