Published on 11 February 2010
A crew of approximately 40 workers are on the site. Trackhoes are placing the final touches on structures three and four. The visitor's center is near completion as plumbers and carpenters finish the building's interior. The Whitewater park is located just to the east of downtown Cascade. Originally it was the site of the Boise Cascade mill. The Mill closed in 2001.
The new whitewater park is just downstream of the old mill site and dam. The old dam was constructed out of large boulders and used for floating and storing timber as well as providing a source of water for the mill. Downstream a natural rapid in the river was formed by a band of bedrock and gives the site the necessary gradient. Two of the park's features have been incorporated into the natural rapid.
As it stands today, Kelly’s Whitewater Park could already function as a whitewater paradise. Just add Water! Flows on the North Fork Payette for mid-April, the projected completion date, are historically in the 1000 cfs range. Which means Idaho will have its first Whitewater Park with spring flows in 2010. Park or not, the features are in place and the waves will be breaking!
In the water, the structures -- the waves, number three and four are in place and just waiting for water. The island and streambank are armored with giant boulders. The features themselves have been chiseled into the bedrock of the streambed. Giant, shaped rocks have been set and grouted in place. The riverbanks have been shaped and squeezed to channel the water over the feature. These features are permanent and not adjustable. But the shape of the streambank is engineered to maintain the shape of the wave as water levels rise and fall. The site is impressive. It looks as if a giant has laid down a carpet of boulders and smoothed them into a level playing field with a riverside stone walkway. In reality seven giant trackhoes have carefully placed each boulder according to plan. In all, over 10,000 tons of boulders have been placed.
The site design calls for six features in total. Two are now in place in the main channel. Two smaller features, Five and Six, are under construction in the bypass channel. The bypass channel allows fisherman, inner-tubers, canoeists and the rest to go around the whitewater features safely. Work on structures one and two is slated to start soon. On the shore, the visitor's center is 70% complete.
The visitor's center resembles a small, but first-class, ski lodge. It is situated on the banks of the North Fork, overlooking the Whitewater park and in the background Long Valley and the North Fork Range. It will have a large terraced viewing area inside and out, bathrooms and changing rooms. High Vaulted ceiling, natural rock fireplace, and great views complete the design. The park will also keep web surfers happy with user controlled live webcams!
The visitor's center is an integral part of the whitewater park, but is tied into the community of Cascade as a museum and interpretive center. It could easily be used as a four-season lodge as well. Included in the plan is an open-air amphitheatre upstream of the visitor's center. It will seat between 300 and 400 people. The island of the whitewater park will be incorporated as a second stage and or additional seating.
Gary Lacy, the park designer, from Recreation Engineering and Planning of Boulder, Colorado, sees the potential of Kellys Whitewater Park. "It's an exciting and amazing project," says Lacy. "The Payette River is beautiful. It has great flows and great water." It is a great thing to see a small town like Cascade embracing the park and not just talking. The park is already a success story. The volunteers and the community of Cascade have made a giant effort to turn the idea into reality. They took the time to make the plan, complete the studies and gather the necessary permits. Politically and financially Cascade has gotten after it. The site has the benefit of being close to the dam with controlled flows and warm water in the summer.
Mayor Dick Carter of Cascade was instrumental in pushing the park forward. He said the financial help of the Pickards accelerated the project on every front. The park will be open to everyone and admission will be free! Cascade plans to build a greenbelt along the river from Bridge to Bridge for a total of 2.5 miles. It will start at Fisher Park at the south end of town and run north along the west river bank to the highway 55 bridge below the dam. The long term goal is a fully integrated greenbelt with hotels, food, family activities, with a place for kids to play as well as whitewater boaters. The mayor and the community see the river park as a community wide asset.
The Lion's share of credit goes to Mark and Kristina Pickard for donating the Lion's share of funding. Kelly's Whitewater Park is named in memory of Kelly Brennan, Kristina Pickard's sister. Kelly died in 1997 at age 23. Kelly loved sports and the outdoors. The Pickards have agreed to provide up to $3 million to build the park. The budget for the park is $1.47 million. In addition to the construction funds, the Pickards have pledged up to $100,000 per year for 10 years to subsidize operating costs and to build an endowment fund to support the whitewater park in the future.
Construction at the park has been a giant help in the Cascade economy, according to project manager Cameron Cordova. The project is currently employing 1% of the total population of Cascade. All the workers except two are local.