Popular Manito Park holiday lights drive-thru brings plenty of traffic, but neighbors don't fret

<p><p>Thousands of drivers have weaved through Manito Park in the past week to observe the twinkling holiday lights, and while neighbors have expressed that the bumper-to-bumper traffic can cause minor inconveniences, they are largely supportive of the community event.</p></p><p><p>The Friends of Manito Park and the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department host the drive-through, which started last year during the pandemic.</p></p><p><p>“It was an effort to bring some cheer and light to the community, and with everything being closed and shut down, we were really inspired to make something joyful happen,” said Kelly Brown, president of The Friends of Manito, the nonprofit organization that supports the historic South Hill park.</p></p><p><p>Drivers enter along 25th Avenue and turn north onto Tekoa Street or Manito Boulevard to access the drive-thru event. After coasting through the half-mile loop in the park, they exit onto Bernard Street on the west side of the park or on nearby 21st Avenue.</p></p><p><p>Thursday is the last day of the drive-thru, which runs 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It will convert to a walk-through event from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday.</p></p><p><p>Some neighbors who live on the park’s edge say it can be difficult for residents to enter or leave their homes because of the long line of vehicles eagerly awaiting the lights at the park.</p></p><p><p>“If someone is parked on the street, you’re in trouble because you can’t get past them,” said Tracey Donahue, who lives with her husband, Brian, on Manito Boulevard.</p></p><p><p>Manito Boulevard is a one-way street at that locale, so if cars are parked on the street and drivers are waiting in line on the street to enter the park, it could be troublesome to leave or park near their home.</p></p><p><p>Tracey Donahue said she and her husband don’t typically park on the street, so it’s not an issue for them.</p></p><p><p>“It’s kind of an excuse not to go anywhere,” she said.</p></p><p><p>She said her children are tired of the rumbling of car engines idling for three hours. But she said those are minor inconveniences, and the event is especially great for those people who are limited in mobility.</p></p><p><p>Chris Warren, who lives across the street from Upper Manito Park, also said the inconveniences are nothing to fret about, but he does keep an eye on the time so he can “sneak” into his driveway and avoid the traffic.</p></p><p><p>He said converting the holiday lights event to a walk-through only affair could alleviate the parking issue for neighbors.</p></p><p><p>“My biggest concern is people get angry,” said Warren, who noted he has seen drivers honking and yelling at each other about their spot in the vehicle line.</p></p><p><p>In all, the drive-thru event is only a week, so any issues are short-lived, he said.</p></p><p><p>“It’s a cool thing,” Warren said. “We like seeing stuff like that in the park.”</p></p><p><p>Douglas Bryant, who lives on Manito Boulevard, said he hasn’t been trapped at his house from the traffic. He said drivers are courteous enough to allow you to park outside homes.</p></p><p><p>“If you had to go somewhere, you could still make it out,” he said.</p></p><p><p>“Everyone seems to like it,” Bryant added of the event.</p></p><p><p>Adam Reese, who lives across from the park, said flashing car lights can be seen from inside his house, but that it’s his fault for not having drapes.</p></p><p><p>“Other than that, I think it’s wonderful,” he said.</p></p><p><p>Spokane Parks and Recreation Director Garrett Jones said he and his staff learned a great deal from last year’s inaugural event and adapted this year.</p></p><p><p>He said they changed the start time of the event from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to reduce congestion and allow residents in the area to get home more easily.</p></p><p><p>“That really helped,” Jones said, and some residents agreed.</p></p><p><p>He said police officers now control traffic at nearby intersections every night of the event, as opposed to only certain nights last year. Brown said the officers control the intersections of 25th Avenue and Tekoa Street and 25th and Manito Boulevard.</p></p><p><p>Jones said 300 postcards were sent to neighbors in the area providing details of the holiday lights event.</p></p><p><p>He said drivers are asked to stay on one side of the road, so residents, like the Donahue couple, can pass through and park, and so emergency vehicles can access the area if needed.</p></p><p><p>One sign in the area asks drivers not to idle and to stay to the right to allow neighborhood residents to pass.</p></p><p><p>Jones said the police officers on scene ensure residents are able to arrive at and leave their homes.</p></p><p><p>Jones and Brown said they have not heard any complaints about the event and have received plenty of “thank-yous” from neighbors and attendees.</p></p><p><p>“I think the changes that we’ve made this year have had significant impact, and we’ll continue to work with the neighborhoods and adapt,” Jones said.</p></p><p><p>Jones said the longest wait time to enter the park was 30 to 50 minutes when he was on site on the busiest night last week. He said he heard some drivers waited as long as two hours last year.</p></p><p><p>Brown said 1,200 to 1,500 cars pass through the park on a weekend night, and 700 to 800 attend during a week night.</p></p><p><p>She said drivers are asked not to line up until 15 minutes before the event, and that most drivers respect that policy.</p></p><p><p>“I’ve heard really positive things this year,” Brown said. “I’ve been out there every night and everyone seems really respectful of the neighbors.”</p></p><p><p>She said it would be great if the holiday lights event continued for years to come.</p></p><p><p>“It definitely brings a lot of joy to people,” Brown said.</p></p>