Friday, January 6, 2012

Whitewater park master planning under way


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

A $58,000 donation from an anonymous source and the enthusiastic support from the Ketchum City Council are enabling a whitewater park project to move from the idea stage to the drawing board.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a contract with Lyons, Colo.,-based S2O Design and Engineering for a master plan and design engineering services. Work performed under the contract cannot exceed $71,572.

Conceptual plans call for incorporating whitewater recreation features for kayaking into the Big Wood River, improvements to wildlife viewing trails and picnic area, and enhancement of riverbank vegetation.

The council's action this week allows S2O to begin work on plans immediately.

Survey work has been completed for the area along the river from the Sun Peak day-use area to the southern edge of Lake Creek. The next step is public outreach.

"That's the most important thing," Jennifer Smith, Ketchum Parks and Recreation director, said in an interview.

She said the public will be asked for input on topics such as what amenities should be included and where they should be placed.

"We want it to be a high level (of participation)," she said. "Community involvement is what's going to make it successful."

Smith said many people and interest groups have been working on the project. The four main stakeholders are the city of Ketchum, Wood River Land Trust, the Blaine County Flood Control District and the Whitewater Park Committee.

The Parks and Recreation Department is project manager.

The city allocated $35,000 from this fiscal year's budget for the master plan. Of that, $20,200 was spent on preliminary survey work as part of the master planning process. Smith said an anonymous donor kicked in nearly $58,000 for the whitewater portion of the master plan.

The idea of a whitewater park has been discussed for several years. The initial step in the multi-year process occurred in 2008, when Ketchum officials applied for a federal recreation and public purposes patent. The patent is like a lease that provides deed-restricted ownership. If approved, it would transfer management of about 217 acres of federal land from the BLM to Ketchum.

"The city is taking a financial risk for a great economic development project," Smith said. "The (patent) hasn't been issued yet, but that's what we're hoping beyond hope, that it will happen."

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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