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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Whitewater park a natural

Sarah Reijonen Correspondent

Yee-ha. Cowboys will come from miles away to take part in rodeos, including events that don’t involve the riding and roping everyone is used to. Some rodeos are all about waves and paddles.

Paddling competitions, also called rodeos, will be made possible once Spokane’s whitewater park is complete.

The idea to build a whitewater park blossomed in 2002 during a planning process led by Friends of the Falls. The plan went from conceptual to strategic in 2004, and fundraising began the following year. Now the park is in its final stages, which includes more fundraising and getting a permit.

“You wanna build when the water is low, so the window for construction is mid-July to late August,” said Steve Faust, executive director of Friends of the Falls. “We could conceivably build this year if everything goes smoothly, but next year is more likely.”

The park, which will be next to the Sandifur Memorial Bridge, one mile from downtown Spokane, will feature two U-shaped structures built from large boulders and placed in the Spokane River.

“The whitewater park will be a place for experts to train and beginners to learn,” said sponsored kayaker Travis Nichols, who has been involved in the effort to build the park. “People will be coming from all over the Northwest.”

The boulders placed in the river will create drops, waves and pools, enhancing the river for beginning and professional whitewater enthusiasts.

If you build it, they will come, but “they” doesn’t refer just to boaters.

“The facility is not just for kayakers,” Faust said. “It will create an area where more people can interact with the river in a safe way. We want to build a relationship between the community and the river.”

And the backdrop isn’t too shabby either.

“Just the sheer number will be spectators,” Nichols said. “It will really open the eyes of Spokane to the potential and fun of the river, and it’s just incredibly scenic.”

There are approximately 50 other whitewater parks in the country, including ones in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

“There isn’t anything like this going on in this area,” Faust said. “It’s a natural for Spokane.”

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