The Durango Whitewater Park is currently undergoing renovations to address some issues that the park has with high river flows.
The renovations were scheduled from Feb. 23 to mid-March and some of the work has already been completed, Scott McClain, Parks Manager for the City of Durango said.
Higher river flows that are unusual for this early in the season have caused the remainder of the renovations to be pushed back until the river flows lower, meaning that the work should be completed sometime in the fall, McClain said.
The park remains open while the renovations are ongoing, McClain said.
The City of Durango Parks and Recreation Department headed this project and hired S20 Design and Engineering to come up with the plan for and to build the whitewater park, which completed construction in the winter of 2014, McClain said.
The goal behind this project was to turn a few, constantly shifting whitewater structures that had been at this location into a permanent whitewater park by providing differences in degrees of difficulty and different types of waves for rafters, kayakers, playboaters and other river users, McClain said.
“The structures that were there before our project were all loose-weight boulders and so at high-water events those boulders would shift and we were having to get back in the river pretty frequently to move rocks back, re-create those structures,” McClain said.
The four structures that are now in place, or five with the one that Utilities did, are grouted in place, so the cost of maintenance should be less on those structures, McClain said.
The four structures that the Durango Whitewater Park consists of is the Smelter Rapids, Corner Pocket, Ponderosa and Clock Tower, Nathan Werner, a project engineer from S20 Design and Engineering said.
A whitewater park had historically been at this location of Smelter Rapids and because of its proximity to Santa Rita Park and its multiple access points to the Animas River, it made logistical sense to create a permanent park to cut down on maintenance costs of having to constantly get in the river with machines to do work, McClain said.
The cost of the project was $1.25 million, McClain said.
Corner Pocket and Ponderosa are the two structures that are experiencing the renovations to address issues with the flow patterns and wave size occurring in these areas during high flows, Werner said.
The fifth structure, which is located upstream of the Durango Whitewater Park, was not affiliated with S20 Design and Engineering, Werner said.
This fifth structure is associated with the City of Durango’s Utilities Department, who hired Riverwise Engineering, as a way to get water flow over to an intake system that brings water in for the city’s water system, McClain said.
“The main point of that was Utilities, to make sure that especially at low flows, late-summer that they were still getting water as utility where they needed it, but then we worked with them as Parks and Recreation Department to make sure that it worked for the boaters and incorporated some recreation feature into it as well,” McClain said.
The renovations that are currently ongoing are a part of the initial planning process as a period of maintenance, due to the uncertainties that come with the designing and building of a river project, Werner said.
“Whitewater parks almost always have a maintenance and tuning component that goes into them and this is just some tuning to try to change the characteristics of the waves as the water gets high,” Werner said.
Due to different levels of wave intensity, the features in the whitewater park give a variety of training opportunities for river-goers to practice, such as paddling techniques, rolling techniques, understanding river currents, how to get in and out of those river currents and overall river safety, Kat MacDougald, a local kayaker, said.
MacDougald said that the whitewater park is a nice addition for people to get out and finesse their techniques in a smaller, community-based area rather than always having to go out to practice on bigger features.