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Whitewater park proposed for Raleigh

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I’ve never understood opposition to a public effort that would encourage people to get outdoors. Unfortunately, it happens far too often around the country and here in Raleigh, ideas are getting splashed around about a whitewater park below the Falls Lake Dam on the Neuse River.

As of today, the small section of rapids attracts a healthy number of paddlers but the flow tends to fluctuate dramatically and usually it’s on the low side. However, when the dam is open, it’s heckuva nice run for boaters who can’t make it to more reputable mountain rivers.

Talk has started about formalizing a couple hundred yards of the river into a legitimate whitewater park with boulders, natural and artificial, and use of other methods to adjust sections to increase speed. Sounds sweet.

However, editing the natural flow of water is something that should always be carefully considered. There is no argument there. Our country—the world—is soaked with stories of natural regions that have been obliterated by man’s propensity to re-engineer the flow of water.

But the Neuse’s path has long been subject to the earthen dam that towers above it. Additionally, Falls of Neuse Road, which spans the section of water proposed to become the park, will soon need to be completely renovated, more than likely needing new supports and thus introducing the need for machinery to meet water.

The bridge construction will certainly upset the river’s ecosystem more so than the placement of boulders and other obstacles, which is one of the primary arguments of the opposition.

For me, the bottom line is to see another recreation center built. Maybe that’s selfish. Or maybe I need a reason to start kayaking. Which is also selfish. But in the end, the issues on the Neuse will be substantially less impacted by boaters, a nature set I have always found to be exceptionally respectful of what powers their passion, than it has been by the developers and farmers that have used it as a proverbial beday for the last twenty years.

If there’s opposition to be mounted, that’s where it should be focused.

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