Healthy Parks

The City of Spokane Parks and Recreation manages over 4,000 acres of public land, including four golf courses, 3 dedicated sports complexes, a 100‑acre downtown urban park, 87 neighborhood parks, an arboretum, and formal gardens.

We take seriously the task to preserve and steward the incredible capital assets our park lands represent. We employ the highest professional standards to maintain these beautifully diverse landscapes in a condition that is healthy, attractive, useful, and safe for our community, park users, and employees.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Our diverse and treasured park lands provide recreation opportunities and vital habitat for wildlife, plants, and insects. These habitats often include pest species that pose threats to the ecological health of plants and wildlife, and may take over the landscapes or native open spaces. Pests may be invasive plants or plant diseases, noxious weeds, or problem insects.

Our Integrated Pest Management practice first gathers information to make thoughtful decisions. Not all pests need to be treated. When a pest poses harm to the health, functionality, or aesthetic value of park land, it may need to be. Reducing the pressure from pests allows our turf, perennials and trees to thrive.

With public and employee safety at the forefront, we manage pests in a way that is effective and responsible to the environment; IPM ensures we choose the lowest risk method and materials. Examples include utilizing plants that have a natural pest resistance, preventing new weeds through mulching, aerating and pruning to improve air circulation, and applying carefully selected herbicides to control weeds before they can seed.

Our efficiency is greatly affected by the plants we care for. By selecting plants that utilize nutrients efficiently, we increase our own.

Our IPM practices meet or exceed requirements at the local, state, and federal levels. They are a vital tool for us as we have thousands of acres to care for with limited resources, while maintaining high levels of safety and environmental stewardship.

Pesticide Reduction

City of Spokane Parks and Recreation is committed to reducing use of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides across our varied landscapes. We are continually seeking ways to reduce overall pesticide use, and when treatment is necessary, to use natural options like compost tea to eliminate pests.

Healthy plants resist pests, so we routinely focus on the health and wellbeing of our plant habitat. We direct thoughtful attention to placing the right plants in the right place.

When a pest is determined to pose a significant threat to the health of the land or wildlife, the approach focuses, whenever possible, on non‑chemical controls. When chemicals are necessary, we utilize synthetic or naturally derived herbicides. We will sometimes rely on these for weed control in cracks along hard surface or gravel pathways. Golf greens can require fungicide use to keep grass healthy.

Parks and Recreation's landscape staff is knowledgeable, well‑trained, and thoughtful in their daily and long‑term approach to caring for plant health. Staff members who apply herbicides have a Washington State Public Pesticide Operator's license, and attend continuing education classes.

When Treatment Applications Occur

When an area is being treated, the applicator will place signs that include basic information and directions for visitors. Most neighborhood parks receive only one application per year, and we try to apply during hours of low volume and never during reserved events. We hope the impact to your park outing is minimal.

Signs indicating the application area are always left up until reentry of the area is appropriate.

Sometimes, we will apply soil treatments designed to help ensure the plant roots are receiving adequate water or that turf can recover quickly after a large event. These soil treatments are not an herbicide application, but have a similar appearance in terms of work and temporary park area closure.

If you have sensitivities to pesticides, please contact the WA Department of Agriculture to be placed on a sensitivity list. The list is sent to our landscape staff, and we will notify you in advance of the application. If you have any questions about the applications, please call 311 and they will direct you to the site supervisor.

Water Conservation in Parks & Recreation

We strive to conserve water at every opportunity while still providing healthy, accessible green spaces for all people in our community to enjoy, gather, recreate, and celebrate. The Park system water use accounts for 3-4% of the overall water consumption across Spokane.

The Latest

Parks & Recreation is collaborating with Utilities to improve water conservation. Since 2019, we have been focusing on several major projects (outlined below) that were selected because they:

  • Demonstrate at least a 30% water reduction from current practices
  • Provide a diverse array of projects (golf, park, splash pad, garden, pond)
  • Have educational opportunities
  • Leverage existing funding on projects that are shovel‑ready or in design, to maximize savings

We are also focused on planting native landscape that requires less water across all parks and recreation properties, in conjunction with pollinator gardens.

1. Manito Park

One of our iconic parks has seen two focused water conservation efforts.

Japanese Gardens Koi Pond - Completed 2021
  • Approximate water savings of 21 million gallons/year
  • 85% savings with pond pump upgrades, new UV filters, new recirculating jets, and more
  • Improvements reduce makeup water while maintaining water quality for the fish
  • Cost: $314,000
  • Funding Partnership: Utilities
Grand Blvd. Irrigation Upgrades/Turf Reduction - Completed 2020
  • Approximate water savings of 16 million gallons/year
  • 30% savings by replacing outdated manual system with automated high efficiency, converting 2 acres of turf to SpokaneScape
  • Cost: $640,000
  • Funding Partnership: Utilities
2. Golf

Our golf courses are self-funded, so these improvements were paid for entirely by golfers through the dedicated Facility Improvement Fee on rounds. The results yield water efficiencies but also improved quality of play – a win-win. Thank you, Spokane golfers.

Indian Canyon- Completed 2019
  • Approximate water savings of 19 million gallons/year
  • 35% savings by replacing 1930's system with new technology
  • Cost: $2.4M
  • Funding: Golfers via Facility Fee
Esmeralda- Completed 2020
  • Approximate water savings of 8 million gallons/year
  • 10% savings by replacing 1950’s system with new technology
  • Cost: $2.6M
  • Funding: Golfers via Facility Fee
Downriver - Completed 2022
  • Approximate water savings of 7 million gallons/year
  • 15%+ savings by replacing outdated system with new technology
  • Cost: $2.6M
  • Funding: Golfers via Facility Fee
3. Riverfront Park
Riverfront Ice Age Gardens
  • Part of the redevelopment project at Riverfront park, a new garden adjacent to the playground on the north bank was designed with native, drought tolerant plants and pollinators
  • This aligns with SpokaneScape water efficient recommendations
Riverfront North Bank Recirculating Splash Pad
  • Approximate water savings of ~4 million gallons/year
  • Installed recirculating splash pad instead of flow-through system
  • Funding: Riverfront Park Bond

Other Water Conservation Efforts in Parks

Ongoing water conservation efforts across Parks & Recreation include:

  • Replacing older, less efficient irrigation systems
  • Utilizing mulching practices to reduce evaporation, thus reducing watering
  • Designating "natural areas" in low-use and steep incline areas to reduce the need for watering
  • Focusing on "water-wise" plants that require less water
  • Identifying water-savings opportunities in Parks
  • Leading the design & implementation of approved Parks water savings projects
  • Supporting the goal of the Water Department’s Stewardship program to encourage every other day watering strategies, including working with Water to schedule watering at Parks to reduce peak demand in various pressure zones
  • Participating in Water’s public education activities around reducing water use and supporting conservation goals
  • Developing strategies to reduce watering during peak usage times in the summer to assist Water with managing system needs during the highest usage period of the year

Partnerships

In 2021, the City of Spokane Parks and Public Works divisions entered a new 10-year partnership to conserve water on our beloved public outdoor spaces.

Through a new Memorandum of Understanding approved by the Park Board and City Council, Public Works will provide Parks with annual funding for water-savings projects that support the Water department's stewardship program. Read more

Pollinator Projects

Definitions and Statistics

A pollinator is an animal that visits a flower to drink the nectar or eat the pollen. In the process of visiting the flower they move pollen grains from flower anthers (male flower parts) to flower stamens (female flower parts). The movement of pollen from anthers to stamens is known as pollination and it is the first step in plant reproduction. In some plants pollination can occur by moving the pollen with wind or water however nearly 88% of all land plants require an animal pollinator to complete reproduction. Which means plants cannot finish their lifecycle without the aid of certain sometimes specialized animals. There are many types of pollinators such as: birds, bats, beetles, moths, wasps, flies, butterflies, bees, and small mammals. Many plants cannot go on to produce seeds or fruit without the help of a pollinator insect. It is said that 1 out of every 3 bites of food is thanks to a pollinator.

There are a lot of pollinator issues in the news lately, with honeybees as the stars. Honey bee colony collapse and the detrimental effects of rampant pesticide use and disease are readily talked about, however honeybees are just one of nearly 4000 species of native bees in North America. But we know bees are not the only beneficial pollinators. The twentieth century has seen a major decline of wild insect pollinators as well as managed honey bee hives. Primarily due to but not limited to disease, habitat loss, urbanization and pesticide use. Diversity and abundance of flowering plants is directly tied to the diversity and abundance of bees and many other beneficial insects. Pollinator gardens or all flower gardens are essential to support bees and other pollinators not only for the purpose of growing food crops but also for sustaining plants in parks, gardens, and naturalized areas.

Butterflies are also making headlines for their plight and are among the most prevalent pollinating insects. The Xerces society states that about 19% of the 800 known species of butterflies in North America are listed as endangered or near extinction. This is thought to be primarily due to urbanization, habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change. We are not only losing rare species but also one of the more common butterfly species known, the Western Monarch, Danaus plexippus. The Western Monarch has received a lot of press in the last few years but not enough action as its populations have plummeted by more than 95% since the early 1990's.

Pollinators in our Parks

Portions of the passive land in Polly Judd Park are now being utilized as a community garden and the first site of an edible tree project on park land. Adding flower gardens near food crops improves crop yield in both farm settings and urban community gardens by attracting more pollinators to the area. The neighborhood and vibrant active associated gardening groups are very ecologically conscience and it was chosen as the pilot site for establishing a monarch waystation within Spokane Parks. Monarch waystations are places that provide resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration. The Parks Department will continue to augment pollinators in parks when appropriate and as budget allows.

Pollinators in our Golf Courses

In the spirit of protecting local bee populations, the City of Spokane took a big step by banning neonicotinoid pesticides in 2014. In 2017, Head Superintendent Mike Greene from Downriver Golf Course decided to take it a step further by creating the city's first pollinator project. The team at Downriver planted approximately 50,000 sq. feet of pollinator habitat consisting of wildflowers and a small vegetable garden. Mike hoped it would start a trend of sorts, and it did.

In 2018, pollinator habitats were added to Esmeralda and Indian Canyon Golf Courses. The three courses had a combined total of 14 colonies with around 50K bees per colony pollinating a 2‑mile radius around each site.

Notifications

We understand park users may want to know when treatments are occurring. We have a couple of ways to receive information, and our notification system exceeds state and federal requirements.

When an area is being treated, the applicator will place signs that include basic information and directions for visitors. Most neighborhood parks receive only one application per year, and we try to apply during hours of low volume and not during reserved events. We hope the impact to your park outing is minimal.

If you have questions about a treatment application, please call 311 (outside the City, call 509.755.2489). They can direct you to the site supervisor. Applications are weather dependent and spraying plans can change frequently throughout the day. Calling us will give you the most up‑to‑date information.

Sometimes, we will apply soil treatments designed to help ensure the plant roots are receiving adequate water or that turf can recover quickly after a large event. These soil treatments are not an herbicide application, but have a similar appearance in terms of work and temporary park closure.

If you have sensitivities to herbicides, please contact the WA Department of Agriculture to be placed on a sensitivity list. The list is sent to our staff, and we will notify you in advance of the application.