In the early days of the park, the spring-fed lake extended to the edge of Grand Boulevard. The main body of water was at the present site, with a canal extending to the east. This canal would almost dry up in the late summer, leaving an unsightly, mosquito-infested swamp. At the west end of the lake, the water would seep into the nearby lots. In 1912, in order to contain the water, a concrete wall, founded in bedrock, was built along the north and west sides of the lake. Water from nearby springs was also diverted to the lake to keep the water level up. Because of its proximity to the town, the lake had always been a popular place for children to swim, fish or canoe in the summer, and ice skate in the winter. The changes enhanced the lake for those recreational activities. Eventually the channel was filled in, and in 1974 a concrete retaining wall and deck were built along the northeast end. By this time, the lake had long since become a duck pond.
Many changes in the vegetation have taken place around the pond over the years, but as can be seen from early photographs, it has always been a place of beauty, a dazzling jewel in the heart of the Manito neighborhood. Sadly, in November of 1996, a severe ice storm devastated thousands of Spokane’s trees. The storm took its toll at Manito – about 70 of the park’s trees were lost and more were damaged. Neighbors reacted when the spring clean-up included removing numerous trees along the water’s edge. Not all the trees had sustained ice-storm damage; some were already failing and further stressed by the storm. The Park Department made the difficult decision to remove them all at once. The once-serene beauty, with the weeping willows hanging over the water, had been severely altered. But, as the old trees were removed, over 90 young replacements were planted, which will eventually restore a picturesque setting. The ubiquitous screeching and quacking from a growing sea gull and duck population made quiet contemplation at the pond a near impossibility, but the enjoyment of feeding them continues to attract people from dawn to dusk. [Ed note: Consult the Spokane Parks & Recreation Department before feeding any of the gulls or ducks in Manito Park. Recent developments have made feeding them dangerous to the birds as well as to the surroundings.]
John Duncan initiated other changes at Manito Park during his tenure. As previously stated, during this stage of the park’s development, he gradually incorporated some of the recommendations from the 1907 Olmsted Brothers’ report. When Duncan retired in 1942, he was designated Superintendent Emeritus of the Park System, and Harold T. Abbott was hired to replace him. The Park Board minutes credited Duncan with “creating one of the finest series of gardens in the country out of barren rocks, lakes and bogs.” Following his death on January 21, 1948, at age 83, the minutes again reflected on Duncan’s contribution, as follows, “(he) always had an eye to the practical as well as the beautiful.”
The remaining articles will wrap up our reporting of the park’s founding, creation and changes throughout the years. All of the information reported in this series of articles came from a book by Tony Bamonte and Suzanne Schaeffer Bamonte entitled, “Manito Park: A Reflection of Spokane’s Past”. The book is now out of print, but a few used copies are still available on Amazon.com and we’re certain they are in Spokane’s libraries if you are interested.
Thank you all for reading. The next series of articles will be about all the various venues in Manito Park and will act as the conclusion to this series. We will then restart the series, so if you missed some of the chapters, please click over to www.ManitoPark.Org or www.ManitoParkOrg.blogspot.com to catch up on the missing chapters.
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