Colorado-based company surveys Beech Fork River for whitewater park

Posted by Spalding Hurst

August 25, 2008

From: The Kentucky Standard surveyed Beech Fork River near Rubble Dam Thursday as part of Phase I of the Beech Fork whitewater park project.

River Engineer Jason Carey with the Glenwood Springs, Colo.-based company, which focuses on river restoration, preservation, enhancement and use of ecosystems, will be in Bardstown through Saturday.

The whitewater park project is a joint effort between Bardstown Boaters and Bardstown City Council. The emphasis of the River Recreation Enhancements design is to enhance Rubble Dam on the Beech Fork River for whitewater recreation and to improve the water supply.

A plan for a whitewater park has been under way for about two years, Bardstown Boaters President Spalding Hurst said.

“We had a really good spot to build a whitewater park,” he said, “and since that time, we have been raising money and looking for ways to bring in some designers to start the work on this. That’s where we’re at today with” is the first developer Bardstown Boaters has hired to survey the area. Bardstown Boaters raised $10,000 — $6,000 from the club, $2,000 from City Council and $2,000 from tourism — to bring Carey, who has more than nine years of experience as a river engineer, to Bardstown. Carey has a master’s degree in civil engineering and a bachelor’s degree in physics.

“We had explored the idea of going with another firm from Colorado,” Hurst said. “For a while, we were going to try to go with a professor at the University of Louisville that does stream restoration, but it didn’t work out with them. They felt the scope of work was not what they could do and the timing wasn’t right. So, we went back to the Colorado engineers and found Jason.”

Carey, along with Hibbs Engineering, will be conducting topographic and channel surveys and taking photographs of the river channel. Carey will also be meeting with officials to discuss what can be done and what is allowed at the river. Hurst said was chosen because the club felt Carey developed three of the best whitewater parks in Colorado.

“We do a lot of different kinds of river projects all over the place, but we’ve currently been getting involved in recreation enhancements, mostly whitewater kayak parks,” Carey said. “We really think they are great projects because they kind of bring communities back to their river ways and they introduce people to the river system and make the rivers a great place to be.”

Carey said Bardstown had a perfect location for a whitewater park near Rubble Dam, which serves as a back-up water supply for Bardstown.

“The city is interested in improving this system for municipal water supply as well as making it an amenity for the community,” he said. “I think there is a lot of opportunity here.”

Kayak parks are becoming increasingly more popular in cities, Carey said.

To create a whitewater park, rocks are rearranged and reform the channel hydraulics to create waves that allow surfboards, inner tubes and kayaks to float in moving water.

The information Carey collects from the surveys will be converted to a computer model to compare the information to hydraulic models to predict what would happen to the river at different levels.

“In the computer, we can stimulate water running through here and make it as deep as we want to,” Carey said. “[It will also help us] understand how the river system works right here to understand what opportunities we might have for improving it.” will work with the Division of Fish and Wildlife to help protect vegetation, wildlife and river species.

“We will investigate the opportunities and constraints, such as do we have issues with the bridge? Do we have issues with flooding? What are the constraints of the site? We work with the resource agencies and the habitat issues and figure out what can be done,” he said. “Possibly, we could enhance the habitat.”

The data Carey collects will be presented to Bardstown City Council and from there, the city would decide what the next step of the project would be. The project could cost between $300,000 to $1 million and could take at least a year to complete.

The Bardstown Boaters support a whitewater park, stating it could modify the hazardous Rubble Dam, attract visitors to the park, create a venue for paddlers, increase the city’s water supply, enhance the fish habitat, create a family-friendly and easily accessible river park, improve the aesthetics of the site and provide local economic stimulation.
According to its Web site, economic impacts of a whitewater park could provide recreation, tourism, competitions, new jobs and businesses, environmental awareness, construction of the river, enhance land and property value and business retention.

To view some of’s whitewater river projects, visit


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