In-River Park Initiative

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  • Nov. 1-30, 2023: The Army Corps of Engineers is accepting public comment on the plan. Learn more here.
  • August 2, 2023: A public comment meeting will be held at the Wasena Park picnic shelter at 5:30pm. Come learn more about the project, ask questions, share concerns, etc.
  • Spring 2023: Design firm Stantec is currently working on the design of the park and permits. Permitting this project is the biggest challenge as it requires permits from 5-6 different agencies. First up, US Fish & Wildlife as the endangered Roanoke Log Perch makes it home on the Roanoke River.
  • July 2022:  City of Roanoke has allocated $2 million in ARPA funds to build the Wasena In-River Park. Estimated completion is 2026.

In-river parks come in two main flavors. Traditional whitewater parks, often called “kayak parks” or “whitewater kayak parks” are simple modifications to a natural river, but we prefer to call them “in-river parks” as they are designed for more than kayakers, they’re ideal for tubers, anglers, sunbathers, kid play, and more. These often take the form of dam modifications and in-stream modification such as the addition of rock structures to an existing river to create play-waves and turbulent whitewater. Both types of parks are made with natural and native materials and plantings, and are designed to mimic and restore the natural aquatic and riparian zone habitats.

These traditional in-river parks are valued not only for the tremendous amount of river play that they accommodate, but also for the economic impacts that they provide a community. Parks such as the Clear Creek Park in Golden, CO and the Vail Whitewater Park in Vail, CO create millions of dollars of economic impact per year. These impacts are all external to the in-river park, which is free to use. Instead, these impacts are to local businesses such as hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores.

(River Run Park in Colorado)

The success of the Roanoke River Greenway has shown the opportunities that follow when we develop our recreational infrastructure. The next logical step is the development of the river.

Roanoke Outside hired S2O Designs (who also built the U.S. National Whitewater Center) to conduct a feasibility study of the Roanoke River (i.e. where would an in-river park) along with design plans and cost estimates.

Three locations were identified (click on each to see designs):

Want to see all the nitty gritty details?  Read the full Roanoke River In-River Kayak Park Report. (Note that the Mill Lane location was eliminated due to proximity to Salem Water Plant).

Next steps? Encourage Roanoke City Council and Roanoke County Board of Supervisors to support and implement.

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