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Whitewater Park Seeks Big Ticket Donors

Park design includes two unique wave shapers

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Work crews are putting in riprap this month to shore up the north side of the Boise River at Quinn's Pond, along the 400-foot section of the Ray Neef MD River Recreation Park that will eventually house the park's big wave.

The plan is to replace the Thurman-Mill diversion dam--known to boaters as the once-in-a-while 36th Street Wave--with a high tech inflatable bladder that will provide better flow control. Along the new dam will sit two Wave Shapers, which funnel the river flow over the dam into a 400-foot runout to the soon-to-be-built 36th Street pedestrian and bike bridge connecting Boise to Garden City.

"There's two or three optimal settings at a given river flow, and neither one of those settings is as difficult as it could be," said Rick McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, the firm that designed the park. The Neef River Park will have a Wave Shaper II, which operates during higher flows, and a Wave Shaper III, which will provide nearly year-round whitewater opportunities.

Boaters will have dedicated portage paths back to the head of the wave so as not to impact Greenbelt users, said Boise Parks Superintendent Tom Governale.

A second phase of the wave park will extend downriver another 1,400 to 1,500 feet, and will likely be engineered with rocks, Governale said, though plans for the second stage are still on the drawing board.

While the project has garnered some major donations--including $750,000 from the City of Boise and $1 million from the Neef family--Friends of the Park, a group formed to raise funds for the $6.7-million project, is working on a major donor campaign for the remainder of the funds. The group has secured more than $2 million so far, said Beth Markley of the Friends group, and needs another $1.25 million to complete the first phase.

Boise Parks and Rec is overseeing design of the Neef River Park through several contractors. Governale said they can't work on the river features this summer because of the irrigation season.

But several other projects adjacent to the park are under way as well, including the 36th Street bridge, set to break ground this summer. The footbridge--funded with a $550,000 federal grant secured by Garden City--will likely be set in August, Governale said.

Plans for the 57-acre Esther Simplot Park, in which the River Park will be based, are also progressing, though delayed by the need for a floodplain study, Governale said.