Monday, May 23, 2011

Petoskey Opens Whitewater Paddling Park

Wolverine resident Rick Meisterheim tackles one of the Bear River Valley
Recreation Area's new whitewater features during the facilities grand
opening Saturday.

Petoskey’s grand opening of their new whitewater park gives Michigan canoe and kayak enthusiasts a new place to enjoy their sport. The improved section of the Bear River is now one of only two such parks in the lower peninsula and the first of this length below the bridge.

Harbor Springs resident Wayne Blomberg (foreground) practices
in his whitewater canoe at the Bear River Valley Recreation Area's
new whitewater park.

The one mile stretch of river that starts at Sheridan Street and ends just upstream of Lake Street is a part of the city’s major make over of the Bear River Valley Recreation Area that includes new parking, public restroom facilities, pedestrian sidewalks and trails, and a new access point off of Elizabeth Street.

The parks renovation was overseen by the Petoskey firm of Beckett and Raeder who worked with a whitewater park design firm to make the necessary improvements to the river. With an elevation drop of 80 feet the park has the steepest drop of any river in the lower peninsula according to the firms Tim Knutsen who was on hand Saturday for the official opening.

12 year old Bow Rudolph of Harbor Springs makes his first run
down the Bear River Valley Recreation Area's new whitewater park.

Northern Michigan Paddling Club vice president Gary Hunter feels that under normal conditions the park will have a 2 to 2.5 rating on the whitewater rating scale which ranges from an easy 1 to an expert 6. During periods of heavy rain it could rate “up to a class 3 and during the recent high water it was pushing a 4.” according to Hunter. The only real issue paddlers will have to deal with at normal river levels is shallow water along some parts of the course.

Hunter has been involved with the project from the start and says that the roughly ten percent of the total budget that was spent on river improvements will most likely turn out to be the most cost effective.. “It’s a huge reason to come to northern Michigan if your into paddling. The future economic impact will be tremendous” says hunter who is also involved in organizing Petoskey’s youth soccer tournaments. In addition to people who come here to paddle the whitewater features are likely to be a hit with none paddling visitors as well. Hunter says he has seen studies that show that “80% of (whitewater park) users are passive, non kayakers.”

Northern Michigan Paddling Club member Wayne Blomberg gives
Petoskey resident Missy Kruskie paddling tips during the opening of the
Bear River Valley Recreation Area's whitewater park.

While there are currently no firm plans for the Northern Michigan Paddling Club to hold major events at the facility club member David Pizzuti says the club may offer some sort of paddling instruction in the future and there are plans in the works to have weekly “throw down” events there. The clubs goals at the park are “getting people out here, creating awareness and introducing them to the sport.” says Pizzuti.

More information about the Bear River Whitewater Park and paddling events there can be found on the Northern Michigan Paddling Club’s website at:


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