Two projects in the works along the Spokane River downstream from the lower falls and downtown Spokane would dramatically improve the way rafters, anglers, paddlers and other river users start and end their trips. Right now, the popular put-in along Water Avenue in Peaceful Valley is often overcrowded on hot summer days, raising concerns from local residents, and there isn’t a proper boat launch facility and no public restroom. And the three official river access sites where most floaters and paddlers get off the river, two near the T.J. Meenach Bridge, and a third just downstream from the city’s wastewater treatment plant, all have  similar issues: limited facilities, no bathrooms, parking limitations, and access challenges for drift boats and rafts. Yet over the next several years, a series of improvements on both ends of Spokane’s increasingly popular stretch of the lower Spokane River could make float and fishing trips a much-improved experience.

Glover Field River Access Project: The Spokane River Forum recently announced a partnership with the City of Spokane and the Spokane Conservation District to take the Glover Field Water Trail access in Peaceful Valley through permitting and construction-ready design that will eventually, if all goes as planned, turn the site into a prime river gateway for anglers, rafters and paddlers. The 2015 Spokane Parks and Recreation preferred concept plan for the Glover Field project includes parking for river users, a boat launch, an interpretive overlook near the river, a new park building with restrooms, a new playground, a trailhead for the planned 5-kilometer South Gorge Trail loop, and other amenities. Since then the city has worked on shoreline planning, geotechnical studies, habitat management planning and cultural resource surveys to keep the project moving forward.

In March, the Spokane Conservation District stepped up to support design, engineering and cultural resource surveys for a put-in slide to make launching rafts and drift boats easier, as well as shoreline restoration and development of the area leading up to the slide. Adding to that momentum, the capital budgets passed by the Washington State Senate included funding to support project construction. “If we use the happy assumption that these dollars are preserved in the final budget that passes the legislature and is signed by the Governor, construction would occur in summer of 2018,” says Spokane River Forum Executive Director Andy Dunau.

The city is also leveraging resources to bring Glover Field and a 5-kilometer South Gorge Trail loop to fruition. In addition to river access, the site would serve as a trailhead for the proposed loop hiking trail. Heading west, the trail would extend through Peaceful Valley, go north across Sandifur Bridge, head east through Kendall Yards, and then swing back around through Riverfront Park before reconnecting with the Glover trailhead. Enhanced parking in the works will also help relieve congestion, a neighborhood issue the city has been working on. The city is also looking at ways the project can celebrate the importance of this location for the Spokane Tribe of Indians.

Aubrey White Parkway River Access Improvements: This last-chance take-out spot near the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Aubrey White Parkway allows floaters and paddlers to avoid the more consequential whitewater in the Bowl and Pitcher and Devil’s Toenail rapids downstream, and whitewater boaters a launch spot to tackle the Spokane’s biggest rapids. With added amenities that are in the planning and funding stage, the site would also serve as an improved boat launch for rafts and drift boats.

On-the-ground progress on this Spokane River Water Trail access site has already been made. “The access had become a degraded ankle and axle breaker,” says Dunau. The Conservation District worked with Spokane River Forum and the city to design and implement restoration of this access site, and the work has made the launch and take-out spot safer for people and better for the river by reducing erosion. If all goes as planned, additional access improvements will move forward in the coming years. The Spokane Conservation District received funding to do the design work for a new boat launch, says Lindsay Chutas with the Spokane Conservation District. And permitting and construction should move forward as additional funding is secured, she says. The final boat launch and take-out facility will look similar to the new slide launch at the Islands Trailhead on the Spokane River in Spokane Valley.

The extremely limited parking situation could also be upgraded as part of the city’s multi-million dollar next level of treatment plant improvements, explains Mike Taylor with the City of Spokane. A staging area in the works across the street from the treatment facility for workers and equipment during the construction of the new state-of-the-art wastewater filtration facility, which will be happening over the next several years, is being considered as a possible weekend parking area for boaters, floaters and anglers once the construction project is finished several years down the road. Under that proposal, the lot would also be used by city employees during the work week. The parking area could also link into existing hillside trails that connect up to the Audubon and Downriver neighborhoods.

If the Glover Field and Aubrey White Parkway river access and recreation projects are fully funded and implemented, says Silver Bow Fly Shop owner Sean Visintainer, it will be a huge boost to the Spokane region in many ways. “I feel with more user groups like ours and other rafting outfitters out there it adds eyes on the river. Like minded folks that are interested in cleaning, protecting, and preserving the Spokane River, the trout, wildlife and habitat, is what the river needs. Completing these projects will do just that by connecting the core of Spokane, the falls, and the river to the people who pride themselves on such a great place to live.” For more information about these projects and the Spokane River Water Trail, visit Spokanewatertrail.org. //