Boise unveils second phase of river park

The city plans to add flat-water and whitewater sections to the park’s already popular wave-shaper

sberg@idahostatesman.comFebruary 10, 2014 

  • HOW YOU CAN HELP THE PARK

    If you’d like to help Friends of the Park gather money for the Boise River Park’s second phase, visit www.boiseriverpark.com to donate, or send an email to beth@markley.com for more information.

Even though it’s years from taking final shape, some people are more excited about Boise River Park’s second phase than they were about the first.

That’s partly because the first phase proved popular, which wasn’t a certainty before the park opened in the summer of 2012. The $3.7 million first phase brought a wave-shaping gate to the Boise River just west of Quinn’s Pond. There were skeptics, even in the boating community. Some people didn’t believe it was worth the money.

Almost overnight, the river park — which most people call “the whitewater park” — began to overflow with people in the water, people waiting to get in the water and people just standing, talking and watching.

“But the next phase, I think, for me, is way more exciting because it’s going to be a long stretch,” said Jo Cassin, co-owner of Idaho River Sports, located at the eastern entrance to Boise River Park.

THE PLAN

Here’s what Boise Parks and Recreation is planning downstream from the existing wave-shaper: two sections of flat, calm water where advanced boaters can rest and beginners can practice the basics. The plan, as it stands now, is to install slalom gates so that boaters and boarders can weave between them.

A whitewater section — maybe 100 feet long — would separate the two flat-water sections. It would be made of three drops, each one a foot or two, built out of rock.

The whitewater section would be located on what is now a rough-water spot downstream of the existing wave-shaper. That’s also where Farmers Union Ditch Co. diverts water into irrigation canals.

Tom Governale, Boise’s superintendent of parks, said the project would replace the Farmers Union diversion.

“We’re building this with permission, basically, of the irrigators, because they own a water right,” Governale said. “Hopefully we’ll make their water works more efficient and (with) less maintenance for them, and then we get to use it for recreation as well. It’s a good partnership.”

Cassin is looking forward to seeing how the park’s new features interact with varying water levels in the Boise River.

Future changes to Veterans Pond, Upper and Lower Esther Simplot ponds and Quinn’s Pond — all east of the river — will let boaters return to the top of the river park by paddling through the ponds with only a few short areas where they have to carry their craft.

THE MONEY

Initial estimates put the cost of the second phase at $5 million. But that’s preliminary and rough, Governale said. As of now, the city and its planners have yet to cement the project’s shape.

Until that happens, the park’s fundraising group, Boise Friends of the Park, will hold off, consultant Beth Markley said. People are still free to donate to the project, she said, but hosting official events without firm details on scope and cost might not be as effective.

Several foundations donated more than $1.5 million to the first phase. Markley said Friends of the Park will probably apply for grants this time around, too.

“But mostly we’re going to be talking to people,” she said.

During the first phase, the group talked to many donors who were interested but hesitant, Markley said.

“Since then, enthusiasm has just increased for the project,” she said. “Because we’ve shown it could happen and we’ve also shown that people love it.”

The city has set aside $250,000 to design the second phase. Private donations will cover the construction. Markley hopes to have the money within three years.

Governale said construction could start by late 2015. He expects the project to take two years.

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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