Whitewater Spells Green for Glenwood

Posted by Spalding Hurst

June 17, 2008

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Footage of the Glenwood Springs White Park can now be seen on youtube.com, which might answer any questions concerning the popularity of the town’s newest attraction.

“It’s taken off a little quicker than we had expected it would,” said Brian Wright, co-owner of Glenwood Canyon Kayak.

Wright and his business partner, Chris Vogt, are surprised at how quickly interest in the whitewater park has spread, not only throughout Colorado but also nationally and worldwide.

“It’s crazy, the attention it’s been receiving,” Wright said. “It’s turned out better than we even dreamed.”

Wright, who is on the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park Committee, also designed and maintains the park’s website.

Over the first few months the park, built on the Colorado River in West Glenwood, has been open for business, the website has received hits from 35 states and 20 foreign countries, including Europe and South America.

“My wish is that everyone in Glenwood is as proud of this as we are because it’s something to be proud of,” Vogt said. “[Glenwood] is now in the national, if not the world, spotlight for our industry and our sport. There are not a lot of places that are, and even fewer places that have exploded into the spotlight like we have.”

That type of interest could mean a sizable economic impact on a town that already is a summer tourist destination.

Kate Collins, the vice president of tourism marketing for the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, said she is excited about the potential of the town’s newest attraction.

“Between the whitewater park and the completion of the Rio Grande Trial, we can hardly contain ourselves,” Collins said. “The economic impact for tourism and the focus of a new and defined segment of the kayaking community is very exciting.”

The Glenwood Whitewater Park Committee was recently awarded its bid to host the U.S. Kayak Freestyle Team Trial, to be held in the summer of 2009. The U.S. trials are often held in Canada on the Ottawa River that makes up part of the border between Quebec and Ontario provinces. The event will likely generate national and world recognition for Glenwood, as well as generate added tourism income with an influx of hundreds to thousands of people.

“It’s a little hard to appreciate if you’re not a boater, but it’s a pretty big honor,” Wright said.

Hosting the trials could eventually lead to other events in Glenwood, such as the World Kayak Championships, say the kayak shop’s owners.

“There is speculation of possibly being able to hold the championships here,” Vogt said.

It’s those type of events that carry huge economic impacts for them.

“We are excited about anything that brings new and incremental business to the town,” Collins said. “It’s different when we are looking at what is already peak season.”

Collins said the chamber looks for opportunities to build tourism during the months of June, July and August. But Wright and Vogt agree that the park will generate interest for much of the rest of the year, as well.

“No one has done a whitewater park on a river like this before,” Vogt said. “We’ve got a viable park that is usable from March through October.”

Additionally, both Wright and Vogt are talking about aiding in organizing a local annual event that would be more like the Teva Games in Vail or the FIBArk Mountain Festival in Salida, Colo.

“The park makes this town a recreation hub,” Wright said. “It’s tax dollars well spent.”

The park has cost approximately $900,000 to build so far, and might gain additional parking, shower and restroom facilities, and viewing areas on either side of the river, Wright said.

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