Concerning the Proposed Falls Whitewater Park

Last week, the Raleigh Parks and Rec advisory board, on which I serve, heard public comments on the proposed Falls Whitewater Park. The “for” group was well organized and had a lot of info to present. The “against” group is primarily made up of folks that either live near the site of the proposed park, or are “friends of the river” and are concerned about the impact of the park.

I felt like the “against” group didn’t really have a concise list of issues about which they were troubled. By nature of being a group of concerned citizens rather than an organization (like a paddle club), they ¬†were a bit less focused in their comments. I don’t want to put words in their mouths, but I’m going to try to make that list for them and give some of my personal thoughts on each issue.

Note: I spend a lot of time outdoors with my family enjoying Raleigh’s parks and greenways and I’m looking forward to the completion of the Neuse River Greenway, but I’m not a paddler.

  • Impact on natural beauty of area
    My ¬†understanding is that the proposed updates will look pretty natural. Locally-quarried rock and river stones will be used. The park will be open dusk-to-dawn and will have no lighting. The Army Corps don’t plan to change the way they release water into the Neuse, so there won’t be higher water levels.
  • Too many people, too much noise
    I don’t really have an answer to this one. I don’t imagine that the people using the park will be more noisy than the people that currently paddle in the Falls Dam tail-race.
  • Worried about trash, littering
    My impression of paddlers is that they love their rivers. The paddling groups volunteer their time doing cleanup and restoration.
  • We should be spending the money elsewhere
    The Falls Whitewater steering group have announced that they plan to fully fund the park via grants and private contributions

My personal opinion is that we (Raleigh) should strive to offer outdoor recreation of as many types as possible. The 586-acre Forest Ridge Park that will soon be built nearby will offer ropes courses and outdoor adventure education. The under-construction Neuse River Greenway will offer walking and biking options. The nearest whitewater paddling options require a coupe hours of driving. By its nature, you can’t build a park of this kind just-anywhere. Putting a whitewater park here seems to make a lot of sense.

What are your thoughts?