Josh Morrisey

Riverfront Park Butterfly Update

Josh Morrisey, City of Spokane Parks & Recreation, Marketing Assistant, 509.625.6236


Monday, August 16, 2021 at 2:50 p.m.

Riverfront Park Butterfly Update

On January 13, 2021, a devastating windstorm severely damaged the Expo ‘74 lilac butterfly on Riverfront Park's north bank after original welds broke under the extreme force of the 70+ mph winds.

Coffman Engineers and Garco Construction were quickly on scene to assess the damage and begin working on a plan to bring the butterfly safely back to Riverfront.

After reviewing a proposal from Coffman Engineers and GuildWorks in May, the Spokane Park Board approved $27,500 for Phase I of professional engineering services, covered through the Spokane Parks Foundation’s Campaign for Riverfront Spokane.

The Phase I design report was presented to Park Board members and stakeholders in early August. The report suggested several structural and aerodynamic modifications to enhance safety, creating the basis for the next-generation butterfly. 

One of the report’s key elements was a new wing design with less metal framing and a flexible trailing wing edge. This approach is more in line with the butterflies as they flew during Expo ‘74, as a photo of a red butterfly during the World's Fair illustrates.

Proposed Wing Designs

Proposed structural updates include:

  • Battened wings
  • Increased wing support
  • Bolted frame connections (vs. welded)
  • A torsion bar assembly, allowing the butterfly to withstand twisting motion
  • Reduced wing loading
  • A 15% reduction in the overall size of the butterfly
  • A failsafe lanyard connecting the butterfly frame to the mast

The design report also explored several possible wing design styles which could make the butterfly more colorful and lifelike.

Proposed Wing Designs

A vote by the Park Board on August 12 approved the Phase I designs, giving the go-ahead to negotiate a contract for the final design.

Early estimates for total design and construction range costs from $185,000 - $270,000. Construction costs for the lilac butterfly could utilize a mix of funding, between contingency reserves, park funding, and the Campaign for Riverfront Spokane.

The campaign continues to raise funds to bring a second Expo ’74 butterfly back to Riverfront Park, as well. Cost estimates range from $125,000 – $192,000. There are financial efficiencies to restoring the second butterfly at the same time as the first – up to $30,000. If you’re interested in donating to support butterfly restoration, visit the Spokane Parks Foundation website.

See the Phase I design report (PDF 6.3 MB).

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