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Commons Care 

by Robert Herold & r & & r & "All great cities have three characteristics: & r & Each is safe, sacred and busy." & r & -- Joel Kotkin, from his book The City: A Global History





"...give high priority to the quality of public land -- the parks and open spaces and civic buildings -- make them beautifully designed and well-maintained." & r & -- Charleston, S.C., Mayor Joe Riley, on making his city a sacred place





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & W & lt;/span & elcome to "Stone's Swamp," formerly known as the Indian Canyon Golf Course driving range. I refer to Spokane Parks Director Mike Stone, who is in charge of all our public golf courses. In the spirit of accountability, it's only right that he get all the credit.


So just how did he manage to transform Spokane's most popular public driving range into a swamp? Indian Canyon is one of our more sacred spaces, I'd say, and for some time now, Canyon watchers have noticed that the range seems to dry out slower in the spring and drain less efficiently after rain showers. The guess is that the many developments now surrounding the course have altered run-off patterns.


As if this wasn't going to be a big enough problem, along comes the city and, no doubt, to ease things for the homebuilders, constructs a sidewalk from one of the developments down to the course entrance. After all, swales cost money and take up space, so why not use the driving range? About half way down, they dug a culvert to reroute the run-off water away from the street, underground through the parking lot and -- you guessed it -- right out onto the range. They even put in a pipe to carry the water more efficiently (engineers, we know, are into "efficient flow," whether it be in the form of cars on the street or water through a pipe).


With the natural watershed paved over by the developments, with the new sidewalk, then the culvert, all we needed was some rain. Gravity would do the rest. Since the housing developments are higher than the driving range -- presto! -- we have Stone's Swamp. Which, by the way, threatens to become a serious public health hazard. The mosquitoes love it.





& lt;span class= "dropcap " & S & lt;/span & o why didn't Stone and the city demand a run-off mitigation study and require that the home builders not degrade public space, in this case a driving range? For the same reason, I suggest, that Stone went along with the engineers and the mayor and OK'd the destruction of public streetscape on Bernard Street. For the same reason he and the city OK'd what amounted to a giveaway of public land next to the Flour Mill, thereby denying public access to our most public or public spaces: the river and falls.


The harsh truth is that the city has declared war on the commons. Mayor Hession didn't create this problem, but he certainly isn't doing anything to fix it.


As an aside, it's just a tad hypocritical that at the exact same time of the Bernard trees decision, the city was preparing to seek recertification of Spokane as a "Tree City." To qualify, a city is required to have a tree committee meet every month. And right there on the recertification request, you will see the box checked off. I went to the city clerk and asked to see the minutes of each of these monthly meetings, only to be informed that the committee had met not once during 2005.


We'll have to hope a fictional committee will pass muster.


But I doubt this is what that legendary urban advocate and Charleston mayor Joe Riley had in mind. Neither fictions nor hypocrisy make for sacred space.

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