Friday, July 12, 2013

Whitewater park’s message

    With the city of Ketchum on the brink of appropriating $148,000 to design a Big Wood River whitewater park after a public hearing scheduled next Monday, the City Council should take a close look at what message the park design will convey to the public for years after it’s built.
    The city and its designers need to ensure that the park doesn’t scream “Suburban Thrill Ride.” The park shouldn’t make it appear that the river is important only as a vehicle to carry nimble boats through waves, something as easily accomplished by water pumped through plastic tubes and plastic rocks in the middle of a suburban mall. Such messages would be totally out of character with the community and its lush mountain surroundings.
    The park should appear to be an outgrowth of the landscape and not even remotely related to a commercial operation.
    The park needs to transmit the message that the experience will be fun and will bring people who go there closer to nature. It needs to tell users and passersby that the waters of the Big Wood River are an essential and priceless part of the larger natural world that sustains us.
    The city must not allow parking lots, signage and other facilities to overwhelm the river and make it seem incidental.
    The plans to date are conceptual, available on the city’s website. The City Council must ensure that as details are filled in, corners won’t be cut in the name of scrimping on a project the city is anxious to build.
    The city should take a lesson from the nation’s national parks, which manage to provide access to outstanding outdoor features without letting manmade structures overwhelm the delicate landscapes that people want to experience.

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