Another one of the most interesting and useful presentations I attended at Outdoor Retailer last week was a seminar about America’s waterways and the many health, social and economic benefits they bring to urban areas. The panel was put together and presented by David Weinstein, who directs government affairs for the Outdoor Industry Association. David made a very eloquent introduction to the seminar describing the ways in which rivers are at the heart of most major cities and communities across the country. Recreation groups like American Whitewater and American Rivers have worked to increase access to rivers and enhance conservation, while local governments and the outdoor industry have worked together to transform polluted urban waterways into vibrant water-front parks.
The panel was a great overview of successful urban renewal projects centered around waterways, and also provided some great information about President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors report and the Recreational Blueway Trails initiative. Check out the video on Blueways below made by American Rivers and presented by Jamie Mierau:
I also learned quite a bit from Gordon Robertson’s (Director, Park Planning) presentation on Confluence Park in Denver. The park was created in an industrial wasteland where Cherry Creek and the South Platte River join together in Denver’s lower downtown. The area has been transformed from a place no one wanted to live to an up-scale neighborhood of townhouses, apartments and loft developments. The park has a kayak run and a skate park as well as many bike trails.
The other panelist was Guy Jones from River Runner Outdoor Center, Columbia, SC who spoke about how his efforts to protect a stretch of river in his hometown eventually lead to a career as a kayak and canoe shop owner and tour and rental operator.
As I heard all these speakers from diverse backgrounds tell us about their projects, I was again reminded how lucky we are here in Bend, OR to have so many miles of river parks and river access. Practically all of downtown and most of the Old Mill is one long riverfront park and trail system. But these presentations also reminded me of how far we have to go and how important it is to “dream big” and to continue to support the vision of the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, that along with Bend Parks and Rec and the Old Mill District, is working to transform the Colorado Dam into a whitewater recreation park. Hopefully one day the Colorado Dam improvement project will stand along side these other urban parks as a successful example of the way restored waterways contribute to healthy communities and economies.