Of the more than 100 people who showed up to hear about the Stoughton’s planned $2.2 million whitewater park, some said they saw a lot of potential for the attraction.
“It would definitely bring people to the area,” said Anita James Amundson, who attended the Jan. 29 event.
Amundson, who previously lived in Colorado, said she had seen the popularity of water parks like this one firsthand while living in the state.
Dan Glynn, director of the city’s parks and recreation department, and Gary Lacy of Recreation Engineering and Planning, the company that is planning to construct the park, presented plans at Stoughton Area High School Performing Arts Center.
After the presentation, comment cards were available for attendees to ask questions and give feedback on the presentation and the overall whitewater park plan, which includes removing a dam and creating several small pools that would create rapids in part of the Yahara River adjacent to Mandt Park.
Glynn told the Hub the feedback will be used during the creation of the final version of the whitewater park plan.
Glynn began the presentation with a brief history of how the plans for the park had been developed by the city over the past two years, and explaining what city officials felt it could accomplish. Glynn also talked about the impact the park could have on Stoughton’s economy.
In 2018, Glynn and Tsung-Lun Hsu, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducted an economic impact study that predicted it could result in millions of dollars of spending annually in the city.
The study partly based that projection on estimates that there are at least 30,000 kayakers within a 30-minute drive to the site and 82,000 within an hour’s drive of the proposed park.
That squares with what the Macur family, who attended the meeting, has experienced.
Kenn, Darci and Tristan are all avid paddlers who often travel an hour or more to locations around the region for the sport. They each said they were excited that there would be an opportunity to paddle closer to home and thought the park would prove popular based on the number of people they have seen paddling at similar locations in the Midwest.
The nearest whitewater parks are more than two hours away, in Wausau, to the north, and Manchester, Iowa, to the west.
Lacy also presented information about how the project would need to be engineered and its potential effects on the hydrology of the Yahara River. Glynn said Lacy has helped create more than 120 whitewater parks at locations around the country.
As part of the current park plan, the city would remove the Fourth Street dam. In addition to restoring the river to a more natural state, Lacy and Glynn emphasized the increased safety the removal of the dam would bring.
WKOW 27 reported in 2018 that a woman paddling through the Yahara River was pulled under the dam during a period of high water, though she survived with only minor injuries.
Lacy said the removal of the dam will lead to lower water levels and a calmer water flow overall. A fact sheet distributed at the meeting added that after the project is completed, “the river will act like a natural river” meaning that “during wet periods the water level will be higher and during droughts the water level will be lower.”
There was an additional discussion of how fishing would be affected by the project. Fish passages are included in the project plan along with the drops and the dam removal. The presentation also addressed how the plan for Mandt park would be integrated in the whitewater park, with accompanying trails and features included in the creation of the whitewater park plan.