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A Walk in the Park



Earlier this month, Spokane celebrated the birthday of Riverfront Park -- the formerly tangled, industrial mess of bridges and rail yards that the city spruced up in time for the World's Fair in 1974 and, in 1978, made its official epicenter. For the event, the park rolled attraction prices back to their original late-'70s costs and, last week, the city re-named a portion of the walkway north of the INB Center "King Cole Way," after the man who rallied the public to develop the old rail yards and attract Expo.

It's a story Spokane loves to tell. But even as the city celebrated its past, headlines in local media this week reflected split opinions about what role the park should play in its future. A story in the Spokesman-Review raised concerns about the shabby conditions of the pavilion -- the giant, iconic tent frame that rises above the ice rink. Stories circulated in other media recently have raised conditions about ownership and development of the YMCA building, as well as the status of a long-overdue science center on the north bank. Meanwhile, at least one participant in a downtown planning update says ideas for improving Riverfront Park are left out of the discussion, perhaps to avoid confronting the historically over-protective Park Board.

We took a walk in the park this week to get reacquainted with this 30-year-old treasure and found a host of forgotten relics from Expo: overlooked statues and hidden sundials, aging totems and weird flags. In 30 more years, will even the Clock Tower and the Carousel look quaint and irrelevant? Or is there any of that Expo spirit left to make Riverfront Park a vital part of our future, too?

What do you think Riverfront Park should look like in 30 years? Share your ideas at

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