Revitalizing Riverfront Park

Environmental and Geotechnical Support for Spokane’s Historic Attraction

Historic Riverfront Park in Spokane, Washington, has been the heart of the city for almost 50 years. It’s situated along the Spokane River and includes scenic Spokane Falls, but the area wasn’t always a public park.

The riverfront was primarily used for industrial activity during the first half of the 20th century, including hydroelectric power generation, manufacturing and commercial use, railroad operations and industrial laundries. Spokane successfully lobbied to host a World’s Fair and redeveloped the industrial area for what would become Expo ’74. The redevelopment occurred without remediation of industrially impacted soils, and buildings and fill were placed on top of historically contaminated material. After Expo ’74 (ironically, the first environmental-themed world’s fair) Spokane designated the space as a public park.

In 2014, the City of Spokane began plans for a large-scale revitalization of Riverfront Park and realized the need to characterize potential contamination with a sitewide assessment. GeoEngineers contracted with the city to provide environmental characterization and remediation services, as well as geotechnical design recommendations for several key features.


GeoEngineers’ goals were to first characterize the nature and extent of environmental contamination, and then develop plans with the City’s Parks Department and the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) to manage contaminated soil on the property to protect workers, the general public and the environment. Our team accomplished these goals through a broad scope of services covering the entire site, including:

  • A Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA)
  • Focused soil assessments including more than a hundred test pits and borings to characterize environmental and geotechnical subsurface conditions
  • Creating a geographic information system (GIS) database to characterize soil left in place
  • Soil, stormwater and stockpile management plans
  • Coordination with multiple design firms and public stakeholders
  • Developed a plan to maximize re-use of contaminated soil in a safe and protective manner
  • Soil and water profiling during construction
  • Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) and brownfield grant coordination
  • A habitat management plan

In addition, GeoEngineers delivered geotechnical design recommendations for several key features of the new park, including the Looff Carrousel, Ice Ribbon and large outdoor pavilion area.


By working closely with the city, Spokane Parks Department and Ecology, GeoEngineers facilitated regular communication and collaboration. Our ability to suggest more efficient designs and construction approaches ultimately saved the city approximately $2.5 to $3 million.

The project is ongoing, and GeoEngineers expects to be involved in several additional phases of the park revitalization. The park is scheduled to reopen in stages as individual features are completed, with construction finally concluding in 2021.

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