The dam at the Colorado Bridge is long overdue for a redesign. As floating the section of river above and below the dam has gained in popularity due to easier access and the growth in population, we have seen one death and several near misses.The proposed redesign offers several benefits: safe floating passage, improved fish and bird habitat and a whitewater play park. I don't think anyone would argue against removing a structure that has claimed a life and that creates a safer passage for floaters. Additionally, allowing for better fish habitat and improving the feeding grounds of the resident Osprey are concepts that many citizens immediately recognize the benefits of. But a whitewater park; what is it and do we really need one?
A whitewater park entails modifying the riverbed to create waves for whitewater paddlers to play on. To be clear, this is not an amusement/theme park and does not generate noise pollution. There have been over 100 whitewater parks developed across the country each with a unique set of benefits. Bend's proposed whitewater park would offer several benefits.
[It would] stimulate the local economy. Paddlers would come to Bend. They would eat, sleep and buy homes here. Bend is already recognized as a destination for skiing and biking; the whitewater park would cement Bend's status as an outdoor Mecca. The park would create a venue for paddling competitions that will draw spectators who again need to be fed and housed.
[It would] enrich the community's youth. Whitewater paddling is a fun, exciting activity that is easily learned by people of all ages. Young people pick up the sport incredibly fast, due to their flexibility and "can do" mind set. If we want a way to encourage kids to put down the X-box, get off the couch and get outside and play, the whitewater park will pay dividends for years to come. Beyond the physical benefits, paddlers learn problem-solving skills in determining how to approach a rapid or play wave. Paddlers are immediately rewarded for good decisions and skills. (I know - I wish my kids would make better decisions on a more regular basis.)