Boulder, CO (July 19, 2011) – Whitewater is officially coming to Iowa. Thanks to industry-leading river park design firm Recreation Engineering and Planning (REP), Charles City, Iowa, is celebrating the grand opening of Iowa's first-ever whitewater park on July 29-30, 2011. The $1 million facility is located on the Cedar River behind City Hall at 105 Milwaukee Mall in the heart of Charles City.
"We converted a dangerous six-foot-high, low-head dam into an attractive, natural park amenity with three whitewater features for paddlers and tubers of all levels," says REP project leader Shane Sigle P.E. "It also restores the riverbank and access, removes concrete floodwalls and enhances the existing trail system."
Along with restoring a concrete-riddled floodway into a recreation and riparian zone, the community, Iowa Great Places and Iowa Department of Natural Resources-funded project enhances the city's downtown area while increasing sales tax revenues. "The riverfront development is a wonderful addition to Charles City, and its crown jewel is the whitewater park," says City Administrator Tom Brownlow. "The project removes the danger associated with a low-head dam and enhances largely under-utilized green space to create features that will be intensively used by residents and visitors alike. We're happy to be the first such project in the state and REP did a fantastic job designing and building it."
Originally envisioned by Ty Graham and Steve Welliver of Prairie Rapids Paddlers, the park has already proved a tremendous success, luring in paddlers from as far as Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin to a test event in early July. "There's nothing like it within an eight to 10-hour drive," maintains James Keyes, who drove out to the new course from Omaha, Neb. Adds Charles City Park Board Chairman Bob Kloberdanz: "It's better than anyone thought it would be for a whitewater course in Iowa…we've done it right."
The grand opening schedule of events include an open paddling/spectator day on Friday, July 29, followed by a "Party in the Park" from 5 p.m. till dark, featuring live bands, food vendors, beverage garden, kids games and more. The festivities continue on Saturday, July 30 with opening ceremonies at 10 a.m., including comments from city, state and DNR officials; a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10:30 a.m., as well as boat parade and tube flotilla; demonstrations from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; a meet and greet with Brian Emerson, producer of the documentary Our River the Cedar, at the Charles City Public Library from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.; and at 3 p.m. walking tours along the new bike trail with representatives from the park board. Find details at www.ccwhitewater.com.
Charles City is far from alone in investing in its local river corridor. Municipalities across the country are following suit, with new REP-designed parks coming on line in Michigan, Texas, Ohio and Idaho in the U.S., as well as a $17 million park on the Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, in the last year alone. And all are proving to be economic engines for their towns. According to a survey by Stratus Consulting, the city of Golden, Colo., estimates its Clear Creek Park brings in between $2.5-$4 million to the town annually.
"They're definitely revitalizing local economies," says REP principle Gary Lacy. "Communities are turning toward them to restore habitat, increase recreation opportunities and rid river corridors of obsolete dams."
Since its founding in 1983, Recreation Engineering and Planning has created nearly 80 percent of all of instream whitewater parks in the United States with an aggregate value of more than $50 million. In its 27 years it has seen more than 30 projects through from inception to fruition, varying in size from a $17 million park on Calgary, Alberta's Bow River and the $21 million National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, N.C., to projects in Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, Ohio, Iowa, Idaho and more. Info: www.boaterparks.com.