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Kayakers glad to have park, hope waves get better

Ian Cropp
Vail CO, Colorado
Daily File PhotoConstruction crews set the pre-cast for the last and biggest water feature of the Avon Whitewater Park.
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AVON ” Predicting and controlling the forces of nature aren’t easy.

But those who take on nature understand this.

Kayakers who have tested out the town of Avon’s new whitewater park are happy the project is in place and can’t wait until the features are making perfect waves.

“The features look great, but they need to be tweaked a bit,” said boater Matt Wirtz, of Eagle.

Although the water levels are still rising, the three features aren’t behaving quite the way boaters hoped they ideally would.

“So far it hasn’t been real great,” said Lonnie Leto, a boater and owner of the Project in Eagle. “If there’s a contingency that they can get back in there and tweak some of the stuff ” it’ll (improve) it.”

Construction of the three-feature park started last fall, although the project has been about 21⁄2 years in the making. Today at 4:30 p.m., there will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the park, which is on the Eagle River right by Bob the Bridge in Avon to mark the official opening.

Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe, though not a kayaker, is aware of the ongoing nature of the park’s development.

“This will be the first year we’ll see the river run, so we’ll get a better feel,” Wolfe said. “We do have permits that allow us to go back and do some tweaking.”

The town of Avon has had to jump through plenty of hoops during the conception and construction process.

“It can be discouraging,” Wolfe said.

But the boaters are thankful Avon came through.

“It’s a great thing for the community,” Wirtz said. “(Parks) in places like Buena Vista and Salida generate revenue for the town. We go there every weekend, buy food, stay in their hotels and visit their kayak shops.”

And for locals, it means a short drive instead of what is usually hours away.

“It’ll get utilized more than people realize,” Leto said.

The three features are designed to work at different flow levels to start the season earlier and prolong it deeper into the summer.

Avon Whitewater Park

Where: On Eagle River, by Bob the Bridge in Avon.

Rodeos: May 29th, June 5th from 6-7 p.m., $20 each. Free clinics from 5-6 p.m.

Features: Baby Bob, Bob, Jr. and Bob, Sr.

Somewhat like others

Ken Hoeve, a local kayaker, knows the Avon park had a few construction hurdles that others didn’t.

“This park is a little different than most ” there were restrictions put on them as far as not being able to use cement,” he said.

The lack of cement isn’t necessarily bad for the park, however.

“Other parks didn’t exactly keep their wilderness feel,” Leto said. “You go to Golden, and it looks like a whitewater man-made park. One of the nice things about Avon is that if you didn’t know they had done something, it’d be tough to tell.”

And just like with the other parks, it takes a while to get the features right.

“I don’t know of any that are perfect the first time,” Wirtz said. “Steamboat was done twice; Buena Vista’s hole was redone two or three times.”

“You get one shot at it and see what it does,” Hoeve said. “In situations like this, you go back adjust, and see what happens next year.”

Boaters say the access to the park on the U.S. Highway 6 side of the Eagle River is a little difficult.

“You can put in downstream ,… but there’s not much of an eddy, and you have to hike back up,” said Brendan Willis, who lives in Avon and walks to the park. “I still think it’s fun. I don’t mind hiking up.”

Until the features are adjusted, it seems the boaters will still be on the water.

“The park in Avon is more fun to ride than complain about,” Leto said.

On May 29, the town of Avon will host its first of two scheduled rodeos, starting at 6 p.m. Before the rodeo, there will be a free clinic from 5-6 p.m. The second rodeo will be on June 5.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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