The City of Roanoke recently announced plans to construct an in-river whitewater park in the Roanoke River, the first of its kind in the state.
An in-river park, also commonly referred to as a kayak park or whitewater park, is the modification of a natural river by adding man-made features to create play-waves and whitewater. All river users can look forward to these enhancements, with features for kayakers, tubers, waders, and shoreline sunbathers alike. In fact, whitewater parks also benefit the river itself through oxygenation, which is essential for water quality and aquatic life.
Similar in-river parks can be found in places like Vail, CO (Vail Whitewater Park) and Reno, NV (Truckee River Whitewater Park), where they provide recreational opportunities as well as economic benefits. While in-river parks are free to the public, their full impact is felt by bringing visitors to the region and boosting the local economy along the way.
This project has been years in the making, beginning when Roanoke Outside hired S20 Designs to conduct a feasibility study of the Roanoke River in 2015. That study identified a section of river near Wasena Park as a viable location for an in-river park. In June 2022, the City of Roanoke allocated $2 million toward the project, making this innovative project a reality.
Roanoke Parks and Recreation has taken the initial steps for a project of this nature, with Director, Michael Clark, stating “There is certain permitting associated with building in a waterway, and of course, the project will be conducted responsibly with respect to any and all wildlife regulations.” Sustainability is one of the core values of the department and will be in the forefront each step along the way. This project is grant funded, with requirements for project completion by 2026.