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Wet Dreams

Boise's River Recreation Park opens

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More than a decade ago, a few valley citizens dreamed of creating a whitewater park within city limits. The first glimpse of that dream has come to life.

The much-anticipated first phase of the Boise River Recreation Park, officially dedicated in June, is the newest addition to the area's must-play list.

"Our designers are telling us that this quarter-mile stretch is unique in the world because of [its location] in an urban area and because the amount of drop is pretty big," said Beth Markley, fundraising counsel for Boise Friends of the Park, the community group behind the park.

She said outdoor events are hallmarks of Boise and the park is expected to boost the local economy, drive up interest in an already-popular paddling industry and provide water education and safety.

Outdoor Magazine singled out the river park--which at the time was only in the planning stages--as one major reason why the city was named "The Best Overall Town in the West" in 2010.

Located west of downtown between Main Street and Veteran's Memorial Park, the park is part of a larger planned complex. The yet-to-be constructed Esther Simplot Park will join Bernardine Quinn Riverside Park and could be done by 2014.

While the first phase of the park isn't designed for events, both experienced boaters and newbies can get some action. The City of Boise hired two wave technicians to staff the site and also set up a live web cam allowing people to check conditions remotely at boiseriverpark.com.

The wave techs--both boaters with more than 20 years of experience--will operate the wave shapers and coordinate testing, said Tom Governale, superintendent of parks. The shapers, which create manmade waves at the push of a button, were designed for water levels between 250 and 3,500 cubic feet per second.

A few vendors will be selected by the city to offer lessons starting in summer 2012, Governale said, adding that the city wants to control the number of vendors to keep things open for a variety of users, including rafters, floaters and surfers.

"If the wave is big and retentive, we will be able to teach advanced playboating," said John Garrett, owner of the Boise-based outfitter Riverroots. "If it can be dialed in to be small and forgiving, we can teach beginning playboating. My vision is that it will be adjusted at different levels at different times so that everyone will get what they want."

Beyond lessons, the park won't host any official events until Esther Simplot Park is done. The extra parking, restrooms and changing rooms would enable the park to handle large crowds. Governale said construction on that portion could begin as early as fall 2012. Markley said the completed complex coupled with the numerous outdoor activities found in the Treasure Valley will boost the city's national and international reputation.

"We're gonna rival any city in the U.S. for outdoor recreation opportunities," she said.

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