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