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2 years and $2 million later, why is Fort Collins' new whitewater park still closed?

Posted at 3:15 PM, May 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-24 21:03:17-04

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The man-made rapids in the Poudre River are complete, yet the river is still closed, to the dismay of many area kayakers who helped pay for them to be built.

“It’s a little bit of anger," kayaker John Gross said. "It’s mostly disappointment and frustration."

Gross has been following the development and construction of the Fort Collins whitewater park, just north of Old Town, for years. He believes if the water section is complete, the people that paid for it should be able to use it.

“The bulk of the work in the main channel is complete," said Kurt Friesen with the park planning and development. "You can see there’s still active construction on the banks of the river."

For that reason, the entire river is closed to boats, tubers, and kayakers until the project is complete. Right now, that is planned for August or September.

“From my perspective it appears that the city has repeatedly put up barriers that inhibit this community supported project,” Gross said.

Part of the frustration comes from the fact that, according to Gross, kayakers raised $1 million to help pay for the construction of the park. They were then asked to come up with another million, which they did. The park’s tentative or preliminary opening date was originally slated for spring of 2017.

“It’s like you go to a contractor to build a house. You pay him a million dollars up front and then he comes back and says now we need another million dollars. You give him another million and then he says we’re going to be two years late delivering it. So you wait two years and then he says we built the house but now we have muddy spots in the yard, so we’re not going to let you move into the house,” Gross said.

There was also disagreement over the number of water “features” involved in the project. Gross said kayakers were promised four. Friesen said that four features were included, but only two for boats. Two were installed in the river for grade control.

The city also maintained their position that the closures are necessary for safety while construction along the river is finished up.

“It’s a fantastic park," Friesen said. "I think the message to the kayakers is, 'Hey, it’s still under construction.'"

For more information on the project, including update for the status of the river, head to the city's website.