Jeff Humphrey

Plaza Deserves Restoration, Protection

Jeff Humphrey, Media Manager, 509.625.6308

Friday, March 8, 2024 at 11:23 a.m.

It started as one of Spokane’s greatest commitments to protecting the environment: construction of a 2.2 million gallon concrete tank that prevents untreated stormwater and sewage from polluting the Spokane River.

Architects designed a plaza on the top of tank to provide grand new views of our city’s namesake falls, and, at the same time, to celebrate the importance of the river gorge to members of the Spokane Tribe and other Native American tribes who consider this location sacred.

“Our tribe, our ancestors, would gather with people from surrounding tribes right here at these falls, every year. We would fish this area for a hundred days a year. On average, we would pull a thousand fish a day,” explained Spokane Tribe member Jeff Ferguson.

However, in the four years since the tank started capturing potential overflows for treatment, the plaza, artwork and other tributes to the area’s Native American heritage have become targets for vandalism.

“It looks like someone was swinging on the spear and just broke it down,” said Spokane City Council President Betsy Wilkerson as she stood next to a damaged metal sculpture of a tribal fisherman.

There are the interactive musical instruments that have been silenced because of their missing mallets. The plaza’s electrical system has been short-circuited. The tank’s walls are routinely used as a canvas for super-sized graffiti.

And, all of this is happening at one of Spokane’s most scenic and historic overlooks.

“It’s only been open for four years, and to see the beautiful artwork that’s been destroyed, or broken, or the graffiti, really just weighs heavy. It’s also just so disrespectful to our indigenous sisters and brothers,” lamented Wilkerson.

That’s one reason why Spokane’s mayor and city council are making cleaning and protecting the plaza a top priority.

The City is moving forward with more robust lighting and graffiti-resistant coatings. Crews from the Code Enforcement and Parks Departments are stepping up their litter patrols.

“If we ignore these problems, they’ll continue to grow. We don’t have to let our city go that route. We can preserve it. We can step up as a community and say, ‘This is our homeland, this is our home,’” emphasized Ferguson.

The City of Spokane hopes to have some plaza improvements in place before we celebrate Expo ’74’s 50th Anniversary.

Council President Wilkerson feels simply visiting the plaza, and admiring its views and history, is one of the best ways to protect it from vandalism.

“I have faith. Spokane is a good place, full of a lot of good people, and I think we can do this,” encouraged Ferguson.

And so now, the Spokane community is setting its sights on defending the plaza with the same commitment the City has already made to protecting our river.

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