Letter writer: A RAD whitewater park would draw people to river

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I was really excited to read about the proposed whitewater park on the French Broad in the River Arts District. Before moving to Asheville 10 years ago, I traveled extensively as a whitewater competitor and have witnessed the positive impact that whitewater parks have on communities.

Yes, it is wonderful to have quality features that experienced paddlers can play on, but more importantly, whitewater parks open up a whole new activity and connection with the river to local kids, families and people who want to enjoy the water. I remember being struck by how many people I would see along whitewater parks sitting [and] relaxing, spending time with family and friends, picnicking and strolling, all while getting to enjoy watching paddlers play on the river.

If you visit a whitewater park anywhere in the U.S., it is common to see kids whitewater kayaking while their parents watch, or see whole families playing around in the features. The accessibility of whitewater parks — both the improved access to the river as well as proximity to family homes — makes an outing on the river easy to fit into busy schedules.

Whitewater kayaking builds character, increases confidence, improves decision-making skills and is really fun. You don’t have to be an expert to reap these benefits or to enjoy a whitewater park. I now teach/lead whitewater kayaking classes/trips for women/girls in the area as well as internationally, and I see how learning to kayak transforms people’s lives.

To be able to offer that experience right in the heart of the RAD would be wonderful for locals as well as tourists. I also teach paddleboarding and yoga on paddleboards on the French Broad, and I think that a few new river features will only enhance the SUP (stand-up paddleboard) experience. In fact, people may even be able to learn how to surf! The whitewater park in Boise, Idaho, services both surfers and whitewater kayakers.

Whitewater parks draw people to the river, and when more people experience the river, more people care about the river, and that is positive for everyone.

— Anna Levesque


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3 thoughts on “Letter writer: A RAD whitewater park would draw people to river

  1. Scott Paxon

    Well, I already care about the river, and that’s why this proposal horrifies me. Some whitewater courses pump the water back upriver. That would require a huge amount of electricity, provided by coal. Others work by reworking the channel or making a side channel. I don’t think the existing topography and real estate make a side channel feasible in Asheville. The whitewater park in Charlotte has 1.1 kilometer of channel. Reworking of the existing channel doesn’t seem feasible to me just because the river doesn’t drop that much through the city. Finally, lots of people are already enjoying the French Broad in Asheville. Great for canoeing or tubing. Let’s have a natural river in our nature-loving town and let Charlotte have their whitewater course.

    • Curtis England

      Scott, I encourage you to do more research on this project. This whitewater feature would not bring any of the potentially negative attributes you are describing. What is being proposed is not a Charlotte style park but rather a passive in stream feature similar to the one in Boise, ID. There would be no pumping of water or diversion from the ‘natural’ river bed. Furthermore the design would feature multiple channels within the river with varying degrees of difficulty; one or more of which will remain suitable to downstream traffic such as canoes and tubes. The river through Asheville has already been altered in many ways from roads, railroads, and bridges. This feature would be the start of a major renewal of areas along the river to enhance recreational use with improved put ins take outs and more parks and green space. This is what Asheville needs. I hope to see this project move forward enhancing Asheville tourism, the RAD landscape and quality of life for residents and visitors.

  2. Mike

    Couldn’t agree more with this letter…the first thing I thought about when I read the first article was kids having a safe introduction to water sports.
    I’ve been to city’s with natural whitewater parks as intended here- totally different from the USNWC in Charlotte. Bring it!

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