Helper City outlines early ideas on river restoration
Like a trickle of snowmelt turning into a rivulet, the idea of transforming the Price River into a centerpiece for Helper is growing.
It is a long way from being a plan, but Mayor Dean Armstrong and the city council wanted to put the word out to civic and community leaders to learn if there were objections to doing more research.
So the city booked the top floor of the Balance Rock restaurant and invited a group of officials and business people to hear from river engineer Jason Carey.
Carey's firm, River Restoration, has changed the Ogden River through that city from what was basically a storm drainage channel and garbage dump into a community gathering place and tourist draw.
Cary told the group that Helper's stretch of river is "regionally rare," with a higher flow rate than Ogden.
He said it could be engineered to make runs for kayakers, enhance habitat for wildlife and wildlife watchers, and still serve as the principal stormwater channel for the city.
The mayor explained that the project would fit in the long-range scheme for Helper, if it proves to be feasible.
That means it would dovetail with the city's extensive overhaul of infrastructure, promote economic development and provide additional recreation opportunities for residents.
"We have to build our sales and property tax base, and we need some way to give people a reason to get off the highway," Armstrong said.
Carey noted that there is up to 40,000 vehicles a day passing back and forth on US 6 through Helper.
A restored river could become a destination for kayakers, he said, adding that passive users of rivers outnumber the active ones by a factor of 10 to one. Those passive users include bird watchers, picnickers or casual strollers.
There is, of course, the question of money for all this. Helper is already looking for $20 million for its water, sewer and storm drain improvements, along with street repaving.
That situation brought some words of caution from County Commissioner Jae Potter and Recreation/Transportation Special Service District Chairman Pace Hansen. They warned that funds from mineral lease royalties are getting thin, as coal mines are laying off and natural gas producers are slowing down because of a glut of gas on the market.
However, the Ogden project had support about 80 different stakeholders, Carey said, including contributors and volunteers.
From comments and questions from the audience, it looked like the idea has moral support at least from the community.
"For many years, I have seen residents ruin the river," commented city planning commission chair Jean Boyack. "I am 100 percent in favor of this. I have a few skills and I'd be willling to do anything to help," she declared.
Karl Kraync said that the Business Expansion and Retention program sees the restoration as economically viable. "We have no money for it, but we do have technical expertise to help," he said.
Chamber of Commerce director Ann Evans said, "The ripple effect (on the economy) would be huge," and offered whatever support the chamber could give.
Steve Giacoletto, proprietor of Workmen's Market, said he's in favor of it, but questioned whether the turbidity of the river would rule out enhanced fishing opportunities.
The condensed answers from Carey, Armstrong, and Division of Wildlife Resources biologists at the meeting: turbidity is a problem for trout, there are modifications that might slow the water in some places to let the dirt settle, and fishing may not be the top priority in design anyway.