On Thursday, April 11 an information meeting was held at the Fernie Aquatic Centre regarding plans to create a Whitewater Park on the Elk River in Fernie.
The project has been underway since last summer, so far there has been a consultation with Chuck Lee, Director of Alberta Whitewater Association, the concept has been approved by Fernie Leisure Advisory Committee and Fernie City Council has approved an $8,000 dollar grant for the project.
Currently, a designer, Scott Shipley of S2o Designs has been retained to create a concept design. The initial study begins with a site visit, kick-off meeting and site inspection, which will take place on May 9 and 10. Shipley is a mechanical engineer and one of the best known American kayakers in the world today. He has participated in three Olympic games and holds four world titles. His company S2o Design is the world’s premier design and engineering company behind the world’s most successful white water parks.
The idea behind the park is to improve the quality of life for local residents, to engage youth, create river culture, and to build visitor traffic.
“The obvious benefit of the project is the quality of life and the engagement of the youth,” said Dan Savage, Fernie Whitewater Society Director. “Any new recreation opportunity is healthy for today’s youth, keeping our kids busy is important.”
The river is a natural resource and with a small enhancement a natural recreation facility will be created where users will be able to develop their skills learning how to navigate safely in whitewater. This facility will also open up other opportunities for the community such as the College of the Rockies, they can use the venue to teach their canoe and rafting courses and their swift water rescue courses.
According to Savage Fernie has been approached in the past by Whitewater Canada to see if there would be an interest in building such a facility. The amenity could be used for events such as a world cup slalom race as well as freestyle kayak and surf competitions. These events play into tourism and Fernie would become more of a whitewater and paddle destination than it has been in the past, driving the food and beverage, accommodation and retail industry.
“There is a trend with communities with whitewater rivers to develop parks and utilize the natural resource,” said Savage. “Some examples of these communities are Calgary AB, Missoula MT and Reno NV. Currently Golden BC and Kimberley BC are undertaking whitewater park initiatives in their communities.”
There is no definite plan about where the park will be. Shipley will look at the potential in town keeping in mind that the park has to tie in with the existing infrastructure in the city such as the Annex Park or James White Park where there is ample parking, washrooms and river access.
The next steps include identifying and seeking support from all key stakeholders, defining fish spawning areas, and presenting the concept to the Regional District East Kootenay (RDEK). All river users and stakeholders will be engaged to participate in the process and the society will ensure that their needs are met.
The society would like to extend an invitation to all stakeholders, river users and the public to attend an open house, featuring Scott Shipley, on May 10 at the Fernie Golf and Country Club from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. For more information please visit facebook/ferniewhitewaterpark.