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Spokane's poor air quality causes changes, cancellations in outdoor recreation

City of Spokane Parks and Recreation starts making decisions to possibly cancel or modify outdoor programs when the air quality index hits 150 or higher.

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — As smoke continues to fill the sky in the Spokane area, people are choosing to stay indoors to avoid negative health effects. Some people are also seeing their outdoor recreational programs modify activities, or cancel them altogether, in an effort to stay safe.

The Inland Northwest has been under a blanket of smoke for several days due to a number of wildfires in the region. When the air quality index from the Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency reaches 150 - or the unhealthy level - Spokane Parks and Recreation has to start making decisions on whether to hold their youth and adult programs.

City pools have been closed this week due to the smoke, and City of Spokane Parks and Recreation Communications Director Fianna Dickson said some programs at both the youth and adult levels have been canceled. 

It has caused the city to get creative.

"Some of them are able to get kind of creative with it. So, like for example, one of our outdoor programs this week is an outdoor adventure camp," Dickson said. "We were able to move some parts inside to an indoor aquatic center. Kind of reschedule some of that programming."

Dickson said they can also offer refunds to people if a program or camp gets canceled due to the conditions.

The effects of the smoke aren't limited to just City of Spokane recreational programs. Spokane County golf courses are also asking people to be safe.

Latah Creek Golf Course has seen a dip in golfers since the smoke rolled in.

"That [smoke] along with the heat, has kept play down a little bit. Or, if they do play, they want to play early in the morning," said Steve Nelke, the PGA Course Pro at Latah Creek Golf Course. "We do have people check the air quality index because this is pretty serious, and we don't want people getting hurt. This is a game of a lifetime and we'd like people to play it for that long."

The smoke also came in time for the course's last youth program of the summer. The golf course hasn't had to cancel anything yet, as the threshold for cancelation at the course is 300 on the AQI. If they do cancel, the course will also offer refunds.

Those at the course are hoping to avoid any closures as the staff comes off the heels of a tough year and a half.

"With COVID, we had to limit the number of participants in the classes. You know, now we have the smoke coming in, its been a challenge getting through it but we're making it," said Trevor Jensen, the Assistant PGA Pro at Latah Creek Golf Course.


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