Partners of the Plan News:
Children Benefit from Shared Use in Spokane

In Spokane, long-lived joint use agreements between the Spokane School District, non-profits and the Parks Department ensure that school children and adults have many opportunities for physical activity. The oldest continuous joint use agreement in Washington is still in place after 80 years, and there are diverse shared uses that promote wellness and build community. The examples highlighted below were featured in a June 2011 training workshop on joint use agreements presented by the Spokane Regional Health District, with funding from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention through a partnership with the Washington State Department of Health.

The main presenter at the training workshop was Robert Ogilvie, Program Director of Public Health Law & Policy’s Planning for Healthy Places initiative. Ogilvie described joint use agreements as valuable tools to build healthy communities. By “unlocking the gates” on schools and other publicly-funded facilities for after hours use, agreements for shared use can significantly increase people’s opportunities for free and low cost physical activity. Ogilvie is the author of the 2010 PHLP Toolkit Opening School Grounds to the Community After Hours. Building on the success of previous publications that explored shared use in the State of California, the toolkit profiles existing agreements, suggests financing routes, addresses liability concerns and shares strategies for relationship-building.

Mike Aho, Recreation Supervisor for the City of Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, shared the 80 year history of the first joint use agreement between the Parks Department and the Spokane Public Schools. In 1932, outdated public schools needed to be replaced, and they made a “handshake” agreement that the Parks Department would cover the cost of building the gymnasiums in exchange for after-hours access by area residents. Aho says, “This is a valuable and much-needed sharing of resources as far as the tax payer is concerned.  We just built $47 million dollars worth of ball fields. The school district doesn’t have to build them too.” This agreement has been modified over time, but to this day, the Spokane Parks Department has no indoor facilities separate from their joint use agreement. The school district has also negotiated with the Parks Department for the right to schedule use of some outdoor spaces, such as ball fields and the golf course. According to Aho, “This is like a marriage, and in any marriage, there will be issues.” Both parties maintain open communication to ensure that adult residents get sufficient access to Park facilities and that any conflict gets resolved. Currently, the parties are working on a new joint use agreement, even as they look back on decades of successful joint use.

Another example of joint use agreements in Spokane is the NATIVE Community Wellness programs taking place at Havermale High School throughout the school year. The Community Wellness project is just one of the programs of the NATIVE Project, founded in 1989. Programs at Havermale High School take place one night a week throughout the school year. NATIVE offers classes in the Salish language, beading, cooking, crafts, drumming and dancing, along with an open gym for the adults and Healthy Me classes for youth. Tara Dowd, coordinator of the NATIVE Project credits the youth programs for improving the graduation rate of Native American youth. With the wellness programs using numerous spaces in the high school two nights per week, Dowd insists that communication with Havermale staff is key. Partners use checklists to ensure that spaces are set for the next group, whether it is students or NATIVE participants.


Plan Objectives Addressed

Target Audience

School districts, non-profits



For More Information:
  • Mike Aho, Recreation Program Supervisor, City of Spokane Parks & Recreation, 509-625-6546

  • Tara Dowd, Children & Youth Services, NATIVE Project/NATIVE Health of Spokane, 509-354-6401