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Expo ’74-era butterflies to be saved in Riverfront Park

November 11, 2016 GMT

Two metal-and-fabric butterflies that marked the gates of Expo ’74 are going to be saved and moved to a new location in Riverfront Park after a group of local residents pressed for their preservation.

The Spokane Park Board agreed to the idea on Thursday as part of a voter-approved, $64 million remake of the park.

Board member Ted McGregor said the butterflies are prized remnants of the Spokane World’s Fair.

Originally, there were five butterflies, all of different colors, and people used them as wayfinders and meeting points during the fair.

Only one original butterfly remains standing, along the north bank entrance to Riverfront Park, and its fabric is long gone. Another butterfly is in an outdoor storage area.

The other three have been lost, prompting Parks Director Leroy Eadie to ask that anyone who knows their whereabouts contact the parks department.

Jennifer Leinberger, who headed up the call to preserve the butterflies, said she’s checking reports that one of the butterflies ended up in private hands.

The Park Board unanimously approved a motion that would allow spending about $50,000 to move the standing butterfly as well as the one in storage to the south bank of the Spokane River near the Red Wagon sculpture and slide.

In addition to the two original butterflies, the proposal includes creating three smaller replica butterflies.

Leinberger said the replicas could be designed as play pieces, using a gear system so that children and others could make the wings flutter.

She said butterflies are seen as symbols of transition and change, and that she wants future generations to enjoy them for their cultural legacy.

“Not only were they iconic visuals in our park, but they are a contributing cultural resource in the historic district of Riverfront Park,” according to a written presentation by a Save the Expo Butterflies group headed up by Leinberger.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year required the Parks Department to document and protect the remnants of Expo because of their historical significance. In a memorandum, the Corps told the city to complete an inventory of the former Expo ’74 fairgrounds.

Eadie said the parks department supports historic preservation of Expo features.

In 1974, the Park Board said it wanted to keep the butterflies. A consultant at the time recommended putting them in one location of the park after the world’s fair came to a close.

In a related matter, the Park Board approved a resolution to rename Canada Island to honor its Native American heritage.

The Spokane tribe started with 12 suggestions and is paring that list down before making a name recommendation to the Park Board.

David BrownEagle, vice chair of the tribe’s business council, told the Park Board that renaming the island with a Native American name is a blessing for the tribe, which once used the island for fishing and drying their catch. During Expo, the island was the site of the Canadian pavilion.

Also, the Park Board said it will consider incorporating the story of the Ice Age Floods that scoured the region into the redevelopment of the North Bank area.