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Q&A: Steve Faust 

The Main Market man on trails, Kendall Yards and the YMCA

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Steve Faust wants to be your friend. Maybe not in the traditional sense of friendship, as he won’t help you move, plan a yard sale or watch your cats. What Faust wants is the camaraderie that comes from individuals living and caring about the same community.

As a board member with Main Market Co-op and executive director of Friends of the Falls, he simply wants you to be mindful of the resources Spokane is fortunate to have. We talk with him about trails, Kendall Yards, the YMCA and land-use issues facing the region. (He’s speaking for himself, not any organization he’s involved in.)

INLANDER: How are we faring since the first Earth Day?

FAUST: We’ve made a lot of progress since then. We don’t have to worry about the things they did then like clean air and water. In the late ’60s and ’70s, it was all about the Clean Air and Clean Water Act. I don’t think people recognize how much impact that those pieces of legislation had.

How has the river and falls changed from 40 years ago?

I didn’t live here 40 to 50 years ago, but if you ask someone who did, they would tell you the river was pretty much an open sewer. With the sewer treatment plant, phosphorous ban and the work being done to catch storm water, we’ve seen great strides.

What about land management along the river? Is Spokane making sustainable decisions?

Things like the Centennial Trail and completion of the Fish Lake Trail are tremendous assets to Spokane, but they are still not fully realized. It’s relatively easy to get the money to build a trail, but we need to examine how to maintain these places. We need to operate our trails systems regionally in order to maintain the health and well-being of our river, trails system and all the activities we do there.

How does the former YMCA building fit into this picture?

I didn’t think the decision was a good choice. We spent $6 million — 25 percent of the amount of money we could have had with Conservation Futures money — on less than one acre of space in the most dense part of the city. It’s certainly nice now, but how nice is it compared to what the money could have gone to?

And Greenstone’s Kendall Yards?

I think the Kendall Yards development is a really positive thing for Spokane. If there is any place we ought to have density, it’s there. I know we have some issues with it, but I like the ideas so far.

What’s the largest environmental battle Spokane has yet to face with the river?

I would say that we don’t have a coherent land-use plan for the river corridor. It would be great if the county and the city got together to come up with a public process that addressed land-use issues.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the amount of Conservation Futures funds used to purchase the YMCA.

Born out of the environmental movement of the late ’60s, Earth Day turns 40 this week. To mark the occasion, we decided to take stock of our successes and failures, asking local activists and thinkers to consider how far we’ve come and which issues need our attention now.

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