Paddlers will be out in force tonight as the Park District hosts an open house comment period on its proposed whitewater play area/spillway redesign at Colorado Avenue. The long overdue project is still in the planning phases and citizens still have an opportunity to shape the final product, but the project already incorporates many important recreational and safety elements that the entire community should get behind, including safe passage for floaters, a whitewater play area and fish passage through an open, free-flowing channel, as well as protection of existing gravel and spawning beds below the dam.
The park district hasn't yet lined up funding for the $1 million plus project, the vast majority of which is needed to raise the height of the bridge to allow modifications to the historic spillway, which once served as a key part of the mill operations, creating a large virtually slackwater storage area. Thanks to the active paddling community, however, planners are optimistic that project can be funded with the help of the paddlers, who are preparing to launch a capital campaign once the district has settled on an alternative.
In the meantime, you can weigh on the project and toast the effort of the local paddlers who have pushed the project for years. Paddlers will be meeting down at the new park and rec offices at 5:30 to lobby for the project and then repairing to the Blacksmith for pints and paddling videos. Bonus points to anyone that shows up in a wetsuit.