Riverside rocks and rolls

Whitewater parks bring life to older riverside towns; the newest is in Reno

Ted Alan Stedman

When talk turns to Western whitewater, Gary Lacy's name surfaces quicker than a capsized kayaker. A hydraulic engineer and urban planner, Lacy is riding the swell of a trend to trans-form urban waterways into whitewater parks. "Most people once viewed rivers as eyesores, as dangerous nuisances," says Lacy, a Colorado kayaker since age 4. "Cities would wall them in ― you could barely access rivers to wet your feet."

No longer. A movement toward close-to-home recreation and design changes in paddle sports are propelling the popularity of whitewater parks. Lacy's company, Recreation Engineering and Planning of Boulder, Colorado, is helping restore urban waterways across the West. Transformations are stunning: Riverbanks are exquisitely landscaped for strollers, channels are deepened; and precisely placed boulders improve fish habitat and create the eddies, waves, and whitewater features that boaters love.

Reno's Truckee River Whitewater Park, opening this month, is one of Lacy's newest projects. Almost 1/2 mile long, it includes a slalom racing course and a city park on an island. Another whitewater park will open in Colorado's Estes Park later this spring.


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