Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Testing the waters and hoping for a wave

Bellevue City Council considers kayak park proposal


By AIMEE LEIGH DURAND

For the Express

Ideas are flowing for a play wave in Bellevue. Craig Wolfrom, chair of the Bellevue Park and Trees Committee as well as a kayak and fishing enthusiast, dove right into a kayak park proposal at a Bellevue City Council meeting Thursday, and got a nod of approval to at least continue research on the project.

“I think it’s a fabulous idea that would attract a lot of people,” Councilwoman Janet Duffy said.

The proposed site for the privately funded project is a city-owned parcel off Martin Lane adjacent to the Howard Preserve. Wolfrom said the existence of a low-head dam and head gate there pose safety issues.

“I put two and two together and figured if we could fix the dangers, we might as well get a play wave, too,” he said. 

Wolfrom said dangerous situations presented by low-head dams include exposed rebar, a recirculating hole behind the dam and the potential for a swimmer getting pinned against the ribs of the head gate. He said head gates are often used as jumping spots into possible shallow waters.

To promote safe water amusement, Wolfrom said, “I would like to see a [single] wave park implemented.”   

Wolfrom said the kayak park is in its conceptual stages and he hopes to raise enough money to hire an engineering firm to get the task afloat. He said a feasibility study for the proposed park would cost between $10,000 and $15,000, and estimated total project cost at between $250,000 and $500,000.

He said that though use of existing structures is possible, the head gate may have to be moved. He said that determination would come from the engineers.   

Wolfrom said he’s had this idea for about two years, and has visited similar parks in Nevada and Colorado. He said that in addition to improving safety, the work could improve trout habitat.

He said nearby landowners had expressed concerns to him about flooding, bank erosion, availability of irrigation water and access to the head gate.

The council urged Wolfrom to conduct further research about parking, upkeep, flow fluctuations and city liability, as well as how other cities such as Ketchum and Boise have implemented their plans before giving the go-ahead to begin soliciting donations. A similar but more elaborate whitewater park has been proposed for the Big Wood River north of Ketchum.

More information about the Bellevue project can be found at www.woodriverwave.com.

In other Bellevue news:

- City employees will repair settling floors at City Hall using vertical supports and by raising the north corner of the building. Plans are also under way for an enclosure for portable toilets at Memorial Park. The council voted to allocate $2,500 for supplies for those projects.

- Bellevue streets and maintenance crews, Park and Trees Committee members and other residents are taking on a volunteer effort at O’Donnell Park to revamp the ball fields and bring them up to usable standards. The thought, Mayor Chris Koch said, is based on the idea that “if you build it, they will come.”  The effort is to attract more team practices and invite local teams to play and use the facilities on a regular basis.




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