Surf’s up at Bob the Bridge?

Cliff Thompson
Shane Macomber/Vail DailyHoping to attract races like this one in Dowd Chutes, Avon is planning for a kayak park on the Eagle River.

AVON- Town officials want to build a whitewater park for kayakers where the “world-famous” Bob the Bridge spans the Eagle River.”It seems like a real valuable asset for the town,” Town Manager Larry Brooks said. “It would attract competitions and community special events and stimulate our economy.”A whitewater park reshapes the stream bottom and streambanks to create specially-shaped standing waves, rapids and currents that kayakers seek. Bob the Bridge garnered international headlines when Avon rebuilt the main street through town and renamed it during a contest.The town wants proposals from planning firms for its course, which will consist of a slalom upstream of the bridge and water flow structures that would attract kayakers to a large rapid and pool beneath the bridge.

The proposal already is attracting attention. East West Partners, which will be developing an 18-acre site just west of the bridge, will be helping to pay for the initial study, Brooks said, adding that officials from Beaver Creek also have expressed interest in the project.It is estimated the course , which could be built in phases, would cost as much as $300,000 to build, Brooks said. He’s anticipating the town won’t have to pay for the entire park, adding that he expects developers and other organizations to contribute. Construction could begin in late summer or autumn, Brooks said, and the Town Council next month will discuss what type of park it wants.”We don’t have statistics to show the park would pay for itself,” he said. “But the track record of parks speaks for itself.”

Vail’s whitewater park, used during the Teva Mountain Games in May, contributes as much as $1.7 million per year to the town’s economy, a 2002 study conducted by Status Consulting of Boulder concluded. That figure includes direct spending on meals, lodging and other shopping by people using the park, as well as other spending by visitors. That spending occurs in spring, one of the slowest business periods of the year in resort towns.The effort to build the water park comes as a battle is being waged in the state Legislature against a policy that underpins of whitewater parks elsewhere – recreational water rights. These help ensure water levels for recreational activities such as kayaking.That may not be much of an issue for Avon’s park, Brooks said, because during many months of the year, the flow of the river at Avon is large enough to ensure there will be enough rapids and standing waves to attract kayakers.

The Status study states that 3 percent of the population nationally kayaks.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or, Colorado

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