Price River as a tourist draw? Helper looking at possibilities
The Price River has class. Class Five between Emma Park and Castle Gate, and Class Three through Helper, to be exact.
Those are respectable numbers for kayakers and canoeists looking for a challenge. The classes are a measure the degree of difficulty in negotiating a stream.
Now there's serious talk in Helper about taking advantage of all that fast-moving water to spur economic development in town. Research on a possible kayak park is on the mayor and council's to-do list.
"We can legitimately talk of the river as part of our infrastructure," Mayor Dean Armstrong declared to the council last Thursday.
Here's his line of reasoning:
* The city is already planning an extensive overhaul of its overall water system, which includes storm drainage. Since the river is the ultimate conduit for storm water, it is realistically part of that system.
* Meanwhile, the city is also reworking its master plans for zoning and economic development. This is a logical time to include river development into that mix of options for what Helper could look like in five to 10 years.
Armstrong has already been looking into possibilities with River Restoration, an engineering firm based in Glenwood, Colo.
Jason Carey, the firm's principal engineer, showed the council a video presentation of projects in other cities that have transformed their rivers and banks into recreational attractions.
What caught the council's eye was not so much a kayaker doing flips and turns on an engineered standing wave on one river, but the crowd watching.
Carey said the mid-city white water attracts both aquatic athletes and those who watch them. He quipped at one point that the river front (First West) could become a front door instead of a back door for several businesses along the street.
On a motion by councilman Robert Bradley, the council issued a statement of support for Armstrong to conduct more research, and to include the option of river enhancement in the city's overall plans.
"We need more data," Bradley said.
So on Friday, Armstrong traveled to Ogden to talk with his counterpart, Matthew Godfrey, during that city's dedication of its restoration of the Ogden River.
What Armstrong came back with was the impression that Helper has more to work with than Ogden in terms of a river, but that Helper will face some metaphorical Class Five challenges in terms of engineering, design, and funding if it decides to get its feet wet in the project.
As the mayor explained in an interview Monday, there are questions that have to be answered about such things as real estate and rights-of-way with anything that would affect the river's course or layout.
The other crucial consideration is that the river development would have to dovetail with the rest of the city's plans. "This is not a stand-alone," he stated.
There's also the potential for citizen questions about the wisdom of spending money on a kayak park when there aren't that many kayakers in Helper.
"True, there aren't that many," he said. But the point is to get out-of-towners to exit the highway and come into Helper, he added. "Utah County is only an hour away," Armstrong explained, noting that anyone who wants to spend some time watching all the vehicles bypassing Helper on a summer day will observe that many of those cars and trucks are carrying kayaks.
As the city works out the details of its water systems upgrade, it seems reasonable to the mayor that the dollars it is able to secure could do double duty, not only serving to enhance basic public services but to add to its economy - a "force multiplier" in Armstrong's words.
Bo Christensen of Carbon County Recreation, an experienced river guide, was at Thursday's council meeting.
It was Christensen who noted that the Price River has "something for every type of enthusiast over 15 miles," ranging from the highly technical rapids upstream at Emma Park to the intermediate levels at the Helper section.