Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Designers seek input on whitewater park

Colorado company under contract with Ketchum

Express Staff Writer

A proposed whitewater park north of Ketchum has generated interest, funds and a few concerns as the recreation project enters the design phase.

About 100 people attended a meeting Thursday at the Wood River YMCA to hear a presentation by S2O Design and Engineering and to provide input on the site.

The Lyons, Colo.--based company is under contract with the city of Ketchum for master planning and design engineering services for the area along the Big Wood River, approximately from Lake Creek bridge to the Sun Peak picnic area.

The main aspect of the multi-faceted plan is a whitewater park, which manipulates a section of river for kayakers and other water recreationists. Supporters of the plan also envision fishing access, a picnic shelter, restrooms, accessibility enhancements, nature trails and habitat restoration.

The city has applied for a federal Recreation and Public Purposes patent, which would transfer management of about 217 acres of federal land from the BLM to Ketchum for specific recreational purposes. Though the BLM is still reviewing that application, if approved it would establish rules of use for the project.

"It's not a blank slate," said Scott Shipley, president of S2o.

Some area residents have expressed concern about potential increased traffic, parking, river manipulation and upkeep of the site. Shipley said the plan will factor in all those aspects, especially if the public helps planners establish priorities.

Ketchum's Parks & Recreation Department would manage the site.

Currently, there is no estimated cost for the entirety of the project, but S2O is expected to provide figures once design elements are established.

Ketchum Parks & Recreation Director Jen Smith said the department has a capital improvement plan that sets aside money for public works projects such as this one. The City Council also could tap into other capital improvement funds to support the project.

She said a White Water Park Committee, composed of volunteer citizens, has "substantial" fundraising capacity. Anyone can make tax-deductible contributions to the Parks & Recreation Development Fund specified for this project.


Shipley touted benefits of the park, including economic impacts that could be generated by whitewater park visitors during slack seasons.

"They have a tremendous return to the community," he said. "It also markets your town as a river town."

Smith said that besides river recreationists, the whitewater park could draw swift-water-rescue trainees and spectators.

"Like the Guy Coles Skate Park, substantial thought will be put into spectator areas and spectator flow," she told the Idaho Mountain Express.

She called the river "a treasure for everyone, users and spectators alike."

Smith said it's too early to tell whether the park would draw mostly locals or regional recreationists, but she added that public amenities like the skate park attract people from a wide area.

Ketchum resident Gerry Moffatt said at the meeting that the new park would add to outdoor-recreation options in the valley and provide a safe way to introduce children to the river.

"It's an amazing opportunity for our community," he said. "I really do believe it can all come together in a balanced format."

The public will have another chance to weigh in, once S2o completes conceptual designs.

Shipley hopes for continued public input.

"That's what's going to define our design approach," he said.

Final designs will be presented to the Ketchum City Council, likely in a few months. Smith is scheduled to provide an interim update to the council at its Feb. 21 meeting.

Rebecca Meany:

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