A push to develop a whitewater park on the Yahara River near the Fourth Street Dam got closer to reality over the past year.
Led by parks and recreation department director Dan Glynn, the city has applied for a major grant, has begun planning meetings with a developer and made a public presentation attended by 100 people at the Opera House in May.
Glynn proposed developing a whitewater park last year, between Mandt Park and the riverfront redevelopment project, using the existing dam and several new man-made pools to control the water flow. It would include a beach, a spectator area and a place to rent equipment.
Glynn and park advocates have said they believe the project would draw thousands of visitors to the city each year and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in new revenue for local businesses.
In January, the Common Council authorized a $23,100 planning contract with Recreation Engineering and Planning Inc., a company Glynn said is the leading whitewater park developer in the country. The Colorado-based firm estimated the cost to build a park here at $2.2 million.
In April, Glynn applied for a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Knowles-Nelson Stewardship grant, which would pay half the cost of developing the park. He said the city will know by early August whether it’s awarded the funding.
“If we get the DNR grant, we’ll have two construction seasons to finish the project,” he told the Hub. “Next year would be the engineering and permitting phase, and the following year would be the construction.”
In the last few months, Glynn has met with various user groups and other city departments to recruit members for a whitewater park steering committee. He said the committee will meet for the first time in July.
If the city doesn’t get the DNR funding, Glynn said, it wouldn’t necessarily mean the end of the project.
“It’s a big chunk of money and it would slow things down, but I still think the project could move forward,” he said. “We’d have to put together a fundraising plan.”