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July 8, 2020

Spokane garners national award for downtown Riverfront Park revamp

Photo provided by Berger Partnership [enlarge]
The 100-acre park along the Spokane River gets over 3 million visitors annually.

Spokane Parks and Recreation received the 2020 Innovation in Park Design Award for a revamp of Riverfront Park in the city's downtown.

The National Recreation and Park Association's Innovation Awards recognize the latest advancements in parks and recreation. They showcase the park and recreation agencies that improve and empower their communities through innovative practices in park design, health and wellness, conservation and social equity, according to a blog post by Berger Partnership, the landscape architect on the Riverfront Park revamp.

The 100-acre park is along the Spokane River, unifying three river channels with park space and cultural treasures, Berger said. A cherished regional destination, it welcomes over 3 million visitors annually and hosts community events and festivals from tribal powwows to Pig Out In the Park.

Berger said a forward-looking vision transformed the former rail yard and industrial site to the home of the Expo '74 World's Fair. Forty years later, Spokane residents approved a $64 million bond to reimagine their park, which reopened in 2019.

Berger Partnership said Riverfront Park was recognized for these key reasons:

Healthier ecology: The site contained contaminated soil. Rather than hauling ‘dirty dirt' off-site it was reused to build up the Pavilion amphitheater seating and mitigated with a protective barrier, capped with 2 feet of clean soil and planted grass. The park's stormwater treatment system ensures surfaces drain to lined stormwater gardens, eliminating contaminant percolation. The resulting terraced seating increased greenscape and saved money.

Community lantern: The Pavilion features 479 “light blades” of varied lengths, providing 2,262 feet of illumination that performs light shows and has changed the Spokane skyline. Illuminating the Pavilion was no easy task, given the engineering required for a lightweight, safe, wind/snow-compatible solution to hang along aging cables. With no off-the-shelf options available, NAC Architecture created a “blade” made of lightweight Plexiglas lined with LED nodes.

Connecting at the center: The Pavilion was populated by the vacated ghosts of past revenue-generating attempts. No longer treated as a building, the Pavilion is an absurd part of the park's landscape, with futuristic, coned netting juxtaposed to surrounding pastoral terrain. It provides a unique, universally accessible elevated experience through grated catwalks, rising up into the net with amazing views.

Besides Berger, the design team included NAC Architecture, architecture and electrical engineering; Jacobs, engineering; Dark Light Design, lighting; Land Expressions, local landscape architect; Garco Construction; design-build contractor; Walker Construction, general contractor; and Stantec, ice ribbon.

The other winners of the Innovation Awards are at tinyurl.com/y9l5uzjq. The awards will be presented virtually during the 2020 NRPA Annual Conference in October, when NRPA will announce the winner of its Best in Innovation Award. It recognizes the best of the best in park and recreation innovation.

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