Three years ago, when Port Jervis officials were looking for a way to revitalize the waterfront in the city, Adam Hubbard, a kayaking enthusiast, also known as a paddler, suggested that the city follow the lead of Boulder, CO and construct a whitewater park in the river. City officials investigated the idea, and quickly adopted it as a goal. Hubbard became chairman of the Port Jervis Whitewater Committee, and the project is moving forward.
At a presentation for the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Committee on August 28, Hubbard said that the Orange County Industrial Development Agency had given the city a grant of $55,000 for an engineering study of the river bottom, which will be needed as the project moves into the permitting phase.
The project will need approval from many agencies including the Delaware River Basin Commission, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of engineers. Because the park will be located adjacent to Port Jervis, it will be on a small stretch of river that the NPS does not have jurisdiction over, but Don Hamilton, the chief of resource management for NPS, said they will be reviewing the related documents.
Hubbard said the “features” at whitewater parks are created by placing boulders in the river which the water flows over. On the other side of the boulders a deep spot is created. He said this combination forms the whitewater paddlers love to practice in, and hone their skills in advance of trips to more challenging whitewater kayaking experiences.
He also said the features were beneficial to many species of fish. He said, “This whole concept started in Boulder, CO to improve the fly fishing in town. And it turns out that the things that attract white water paddlers are the exact same things that trout want: deeper pools, moving water, aerated water. So as they were creating a park to enhance the fly fishing on Clear Creek, the paddlers said, “Wait a minute, you’re making surf waves,” and they started to work in unison to design it, and that’s how the company Recreation Engineering and Planning, the company that is designing the park, was created.”
Nadia Rajsz, supervisor of the Town of Lumberland , wondered if the park would interfere with the existing canoes and rafts that ply the river.
Hubbard said it would not. There is an island at the proposed spot in the river, and three quarters of the water flows on the Pennsylvania side of the river, and only about one quarter flows on the Port Jervis side, which is where the features will be created. In order to get to the features, rafters would have to intentionally paddle that way, because the river currents pull rafters into the main stem.
Hubbard also said the white water park would have no impact on flooding, and once the features are in place no maintenance is required.
He said studies of other white water parks have shown that 75% of the people that come because of them don’t use the park. They come to watch, or come with relatives and will have a different activity, or come because the park affords a free river access point.
A planning department study showed that a white water park could generate from $10 million to $39 million in revenues for the region, and the cost could be anywhere from $1 million to $2.9 million depending on the number of features and extras.