From The Rocky Mountain Collegian (Ceci Taylor):
Sounds of the Poudre River rolling over rocks, children and adults laughing and screaming and live music could be heard just north of Old Town at the Poudre River Whitewater Park Saturday.
An ongoing project since 2014, the Poudre River Whitewater Park was finally opened to the public [October 23, 2019].
A number of people spoke at the ribbon-cutting event, including Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell, Councilmember Susan Gutowsky, local business owner and project donor Jack Graham and City Manager Darin Atteberry.
“This is really a gem now in Fort Collins, and I’m really excited to be here today and to appreciate all the things this great City can do for the people of Fort Collins,” Troxell said. “The Poudre River is indeed a treasure, and we must guard it, and we must protect it and we must also enjoy it.”
Alex Mcintosh, a Fort Collins resident and kayaker, said the construction of the Whitewater Park in Fort Collins means a lot to him as a kayaker.
“I think it will bring a bunch of different subcultures and communities together: fishermen, rafters and people during the summer for tubing,” Mcintosh said. “It’s nice to see they’ve taken the initiative to create something in town for everyone to enjoy and learn and educate themselves about the river.”
Troxell said the Poudre River has been a working river for a long time, so a lot of diversions, irrigation ditches and canals have already been built into the river. He said this particular part of the river already had a lot of man-made additions to it, which makes the river uninhabitable and inaccessible.
The goal of the Poudre River master plan is to reclaim the river for natural habitat and create accessibility for the people of Fort Collins, and the completion of the Whitewater Park marks the beginning of that process.
“When I was growing up here, the river was the back door,” Troxell said. “It had the riff-raff, it had the old cars and now, today, it’s our front door.”
Gutowsky said the Heritage Trail Program plans to add signs throughout the river corridors, along with viewing areas that will allow visitors to understand the messages of history and the environment of the Poudre River.
“Here we are today celebrating the Poudre River, and it is the jewel of our City,” Gutowsky said. “Over the decades, our river has seen great drama and interesting characters. It has many interesting stories to share. Not only will our Whitewater Park be a recreational phenomenon, but it will also serve as a heritage gateway: a physical and informational gateway created through a funding partnership.”
Graham said there was a massive amount of people who contributed to the project, and nothing could have been accomplished without the support of Fort Collins citizens who voted for and donated to the park.
“We should point to the success of this park as a great example of how investing in our community works, and we should continue to invest wisely,” Graham said. “People will be attracted to come to Fort Collins to see the Whitewater Park and the River District. New businesses will be formed, and the help of our community to even higher levels of economic strength are going to occur. The park is going to be a great asset to our City.”
Atteberry said the park is only the beginning, and new ideas and projects are already in motion for the Poudre River. He also said the main goals of the Whitewater Park were recreation for citizens of Fort Collins, river safety and the juxtaposition between the man-made and the natural environment.
“Recreation matters to this town, not only because it’s fun, but because we want to be a healthy community, and this is forwarding that strategic objective,” Atteberry said. “Safety matters. There are going to be fewer properties that are flooding because of this project. It’s not just a pretty face. It has a deep function to it, and that is it helps take properties out of the floodplain.”
Kurt Friesen, director of the Park Planning and Development department for the City of Fort Collins, said the construction of the park wasn’t easy, and seeing it open was so rewarding because he knew the process it went through.
Friesen said the project underwent a number of obstacles, including the limited timeframe given to get the work done in the river. He said a series of very old manholes were found in the river that were used to direct flows into the old power plant.
Friesen said that, normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but since the team was racing against the clock to get the work done before the snowmelt in April, it was a problem.
However, the contractors and their team were able to get the manholes removed quickly, and the project was able to continue.
“I just want to say thank you to those that committed themselves,” Friesen said. “I believe this will be Fort Collins’ next great place largely because of that commitment.”
Ceci Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.