By 2019, if all goes according to plan, river rats will be able to weave through a water slalom course at Boise River Park, play on a series of mini-rapids or just sit and watch other people doing those things from the banks of Esther Simplot Park.
The park’s long-awaited second phase caught a wave Thursday when the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation announced it will donate $3.5 million to match money put up by the city of Boise for continued development.
The park, which opened in 2012 just west of Quinn’s Pond, has become a hot spot for kayakers, surfers and other wave junkies, as well as onlookers. A dam and attached gate create a wave where water enthusiasts play and practice techniques.
The second phase will occupy a half-mile stretch of river downstream from the first-phase dam. It will feature lochs, boulders and other obstacles that produce a variety of wave types and difficulty levels, Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said.
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Between the expanded whitewater park, Quinn’s Pond and Esther Simplot Park, under construction just east of the river along Whitewater Park Boulevard, Boise soon will offer an urban recreation corridor “that is absolutely like nothing else in the country,” Holloway said.
“It wouldn't be possible without the contribution from the Albertson Foundation,” he said. “The foundation recognizes that investing in this part of town and a recreation activity that benefits the entire community fits their mission.”
Experts will need a year or so to work out the final design and permits before construction can begin on the second phase, Holloway said. Full development of the park is expected to take four years.
Disruptions to recreation should be limited, though. Holloway said construction can take place only during nonirrigation season, typically between November and April, when the river flows are at their lowest.
So far, the city has invested about $1.8 million in the whitewater park’s second phase. It spent most of that — $1.4 million — on a rebuild of an irrigation diversion dam. The rest went to a preliminary design of the park that was aimed at finding the project’s rough parameters. The city also rebuilt the dam that produces the wave for the whitewater park’s first phase, Holloway said.
The total projected cost for both phases is $12.2 million.