Northwest Passages: Garrett Jones, Director of Spokane Parks, on the almost complete renovation of Riverfront Park

The final piece of the taxpayer-funded renovation of Riverfront Park is slated to open in late spring or early summer, and the availability of its ice-age-themed features could be affected by the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Spokane Parks director Garrett Jones said Thursday.

“At the same time, we don’t want this nice, new, shiny amenity that citizens and our partners paid for and it’s behind a fence and ready to go,” Jones said in an interview part of a virtual forum for Northwest Passages, which can be viewed in full online. “It could also be a step-by-step approach to opening this up. But we will see. “

Virtual forum for Northwest Passages / The Spokesman Review

Completion of the $ 9.4 million complex, including a regional playground, skate park, splash pad, outdoor basketball court, and climbing wall, will round out the five projects that citizens are seeking to restore as part of a 64- Have voted million dollar bond in 2014. Projects that have already been completed include the Numerica Skate Ribbon and SkyRide, the Looff Carrousel, the central promenades and the US Pavilion.

The pandemic also slowed the unveiling of the pavilion’s true potential, by far the largest investment the department has made in the remodeling. A planned series of concerts, Hoopfest and other events were postponed just a few months after a grand opening that brought hundreds under the illuminated net to the sounds of the Spokane Symphony.

“It was difficult. At the beginning it was also very difficult,” said Jones. “But we have learned and we just adapt and are very flexible.”

A series of concerts will begin on July 22nd with the headlining folk / rock / reggae outfit Slightly Stoopid, followed by Primus on August 13th. Both acts should appear in the pavilion in 2020.

While the crews were working on the new parts of the park, the department has also planned to fix what is there with money beyond the taxpayer-approved bonds. This includes replacing the Expo ’74 butterfly that was destroyed by the January storm.

“We’re engaged in one way or another to find out what that replacement is,” said Jones. “We have already started this process and looked deeply into what happened, why it happened and what progress we can make to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Jones said the park was working on a “2.0” version of the butterfly. It would include the movement of actual butterflies and other engineering enhancements to prevent gusts from toppling the structure, as they did in January and February 1995.

Another project that is not part of the bond, which is scheduled to be completed this year, is the renovation of the footbridge over the upper falls. It was built during the expo and closed in April 2019 due to concerns about the safety of the tread or deck of the bridge.

The parking department started soliciting bids for work to repair the bridge this week. The park department starts with the northernmost bridge and then switches to the southern bridge, which remains open.

“This year. We keep our fingers crossed,” said Jones. “We hope we get good bids back.”

The south bridge will probably not be repaired until after 2021.

While some of the programs remain limited for health and safety reasons, the reopening of the carousel and welcoming guests during the summer months should give visitors a clue as to how Riverfront Park will go into the next 50 years, Jones said.

“The greatest achievement is the experiences and memories our citizens and tourists have in the park,” said Jones.

Author Kip Hill conducted the interview with Northwest Passages that formed the basis for this story.