Whitewater rafting park proponents eyeing grant

Posted by Spalding Hurst

February 7, 2013

Whitewater rafting park proponents will apply for a $6 million to $8 million federal grant to help establish the park.

The Bowling Green Riverfront Foundation plans to apply for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant, Paul Ress, a member of the Greenways Commission, told other board members Monday night.

“We know that it is a highly competitive grant,” he said. “A lot of cities have to apply three to five years in a row to get this grant, but we figured we would take a shot at it.”

The foundation was recently involved in establishing a mountain bike trail at Weldon Peete Park. The whitewater boating course would be on Barren River near that park and the RiverWalk at Mitch McConnell Park.

Ress said nearly all plans are in place for the rafting course, thanks mostly to work done years ago to establish it. Ress said the plan then had the backing of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but at that time there was no money available to implement it.

Steve Hunter, executive director of the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County, asked Ress if he planned to reference the nearby Tax Increment Financing District or try to have the project included in the TIF.

Ress said they were uncertain of either since the TIF dropped the proposed whitewater park from its boundaries in 2008.

Public Works Director Mac Yowell asked Ress if the grant needed to be submitted by a sponsoring government agency.

“I’m not sure,” Ress said.

Yowell said Ress more than likely would need to seek the sponsorship of the city for the grant proposal, which means he has to act quickly since the pre-application for the grant is due by Feb. 22.

Ress and fellow foundation member and hydrology graduate student Nick Lawhon are writing the grant proposal.

Lawhon said he is writing the technical portion of the grant, which describes about how they will install six miniature dams and fortify Bowling Green Municipal Utilities’ existing rubble dam with concrete.

He plans to emphasize the conservation effects of such a project.

“The water … is undermining the piers for the (Old Louisville Road) bridge,” Lawhon said.

The current swirls around the rubble dam and licks at the bridge pier, he said.

The group’s plans would prevent that and would raise the water level behind the dams, giving BGMU a more stable level of water to withdraw from, Lawhon said.

The project would improve the river’s infrastructure and bring tourists to the area who want to use the quarter-mile, Class II to III (depending on water levels) whitewater run, Ress said.

He cited Reno, Nev., as a city that capitalized on a whitewater run it has. Every year, a whitewater festival draws thousands to the city.

Neither wanted to speculate on what chances such a grant application might have.

“I think they had like $1.5 billion to $2 billion in the program (for two years),” Lawhon said. “They awarded 25 grants last year in the $5 million to $15 million range each.”

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program “enables (the Department of Transportation) to use a rigorous process to select projects with exceptional benefits, explore ways to deliver projects faster and save on construction costs, and make investments in our (n)ation’s infrastructure that make communities more livable and sustainable,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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