Archive for Thursday, March 9, 2017

Residents voice dissent at information session on proposed whitewater center

Jeff Wise, president and CEO of the U.S. Whitewater Center in Charlotte, presents information about the potential whitewater outdoor center proposed for Clinton State Park to a crowd on March 9, 2017, at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

Jeff Wise, president and CEO of the U.S. Whitewater Center in Charlotte, presents information about the potential whitewater outdoor center proposed for Clinton State Park to a crowd on March 9, 2017, at Sports Pavilion Lawrence.

March 9, 2017


An information session about the potential whitewater outdoor center proposed for Clinton State Park drew sharp community dissent and multiple suggestions that the project find another location.

At an informational meeting about the project Thursday, Lawrence resident David Sain said that part of what he liked about the state park is the quiet, and that he would be more tolerant of the idea if it used either an already developed area or an area that had been developed in the past and had since fallen out of use, such as the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant.

“I go to the state park two or three times per week, hike and kayak out on that lake, and it’s not going to be the same if it succeeds,” Sain said. “That means there’s going to be hundreds of thousands of people coming through...Why take the state park that to me is one of the best state parks in the state and do that to it?”

The answer provided to Sain was that the center is a way to bring in more revenue to sustain the state’s parks. Though the center would be run by the North Carolina-based U.S. National Whitewater Center, the project is being pushed by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Linda Craghead, assistant secretary of the department, responded to Sain’s question by bringing up the state’s budget problems. Craghead told the crowd of approximately 75 people who filled the meeting room at Sports Pavilion Lawrence that she’s been directed by the Legislature to make the state’s 26 parks “self-sufficient.”

“We were told ahead of time, sort of kind of, that, ‘You know what, that state funding that you’ve gotten in the past is going to go away, because people don’t want more taxes and we’re going to respect that,’” Craghead said.

The $70 million center would have a manmade whitewater rafting and kayaking facility, zip lines and rock climbing and provide access to a trail system through the park. Plans for the center also include an outdoor amphitheater, restaurant, beer garden and conference center.

Jeff Wise, president and CEO of the U.S. Whitewater Center in Charlotte, emphasized that plans for the center are conceptual, and that the group is responsive to local feedback. Wise also said the center itself would likely only take up 30 to 40 acres, and they would add to the existing trail system in the 1,500-acre state park. Wise said the point was not to ruin the natural beauty of the park, but to enhance it.

“People will say, ‘Well, you bastardize it when you put water in a concrete channel,’” said Wise, who compared the center’s concept with climbing gyms. “…It’s not a bastardization of it; it’s an enhancement of it, and it’s just a different form of it.”

Attendance at the center is meant to have a regional draw. In response to concerns that the project would privatize a public resource, Craghead said that the state park itself could still be accessed with a $5 parking pass from the center, which is the same as the current fee for a single-vehicle day pass. Wise said that access to the center’s facilities would cost approximately $60 for a day pass or $200 for an annual pass.

Wise also pointed out that the center would be operated by a nonprofit and would invest in youth and community programming. At the center in Charlotte, he said that includes camps, training and conferences. Wise said that first and foremost, they want to get people outside.

“We believe in building strong communities through these three primary legs of a stool: promoting healthy, active lifestyles; developing environmental stewardship; and encouraging family and civic interaction,” Wise said. “If you think about it, guys, that’s why we play outside.”

The financial backing of the project also raised questions. Some audience members took issue with the fact that the center would not be able to succeed on its revenues alone. The center would require $70 million of public backing, potentially via STAR bonds, to finance its construction.

Douglas County and the City of Lawrence would have to file a joint application for the bonds, a decision that would have to be made by both local governing bodies. New revenue generated by the whitewater center, as well as another commercial project that would be required to gather the revenue needed, would be used to pay back the bonds.

Attendees also wanted to know how the center would affect some of the existing features of the park. That included the public swimming beach, the prairie areas and the lake itself, which along with the Kansas River serves as a source for municipal water.

Jennifer Dropkin, a member of the Jayhawk Audubon Society and Grassland Heritage Foundation, said the state of the Clinton reservoir and the fact that the area is prone to drought should also be considered.

“We need to conserve our drinking water,” Dropkin said. “We have to address the siltation of the reservoir. I believe you need that to understand part of the problem with putting a whitewater recreational center here.”

The project would require an environmental impact study, and Craghead said that the water needed to fill the whitewater channels would be re-circulated. Plans for the center have it located in the part of the park that is currently campground two, and it would potentially impact the public swimming beach. Craghead said the beach could be moved to a new location.

As the meeting drew to a close, an audience member pointed out that all of the comments made had been negative, and Craghead asked if there was anyone in attendance who had a positive comment. One man said he did think the center was cool idea and would be fun for his kids, but that he didn’t think it should be located at the state park.

A local landscape architect, Brian Sturm, added that he thought it would be a good activity for his kids.

“I love the idea that there could be a way to show them some of those outdoor things that we do already do here at Clinton and the Baker-Haskell Wetlands, but we also drive four to 10 hours to do in southeastern Missouri and the Rocky Mountains,” Sturm said.

Thursday’s meeting was one of several local meetings that Craghead said they have held regarding the center, although most of the others were with smaller groups of stakeholders. She said the intent was to start a conversation.

“You can call my office,” Craghead said. “I’d be happy to come talk to your group. It is about a discussion. I respect your position, and I hope you respect my part of the conversation too. Let’s keep talking.”


Stacy Napier 1 year, 2 months ago

I got the NIBYs. Guess what Lawrence crybabies. This park is the closest to any large city. It is run and owned by the state. If put to a state vote I would guess that the rest of the state that Lawrence tries so hard to not be a part of, would pass it hands down. Sounds like a huge retail and tax draw for Lawrence and huge shot in the arm. Don't think so? Look at the KS speedway and the Legends. KCK can't spend the money fast enough.

Michael Kort 1 year, 2 months ago

$70 mil in star bonds and who pays those off if this thing doesn't take hold and succeed ?

Would it be the State ?, the County ? or the City of Lawrence ?

How many months of the year would this thing sit idle yearly making goose egg because of too cold water to operate in temperatures ?

What about when the green algy blooms comes ?

Who sues who when riders get poisoned ?


The next dumb $70mil bond obligation that the county and city don't need to cover .

Let the state clean up their own financial house and fund the parks as they used to or simply raise the daily fee to visit .

Or get Stacie Napier to cover the $70mil with personal funds guarantees .

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 2 months ago

We can just send the bill to Stacy, can't we?

Ken Lassman 1 year, 2 months ago

You know, if you want to convince folks that this is a good idea, I suggest a different strategy than insulting everybody who has concerns by calling them crybabies in the first line of your comment. Just a thought.

John Lee 1 year, 2 months ago

Hmm, I don't think it's a crybaby thing so much as people concerned voicing legitimate issues, like the fact that this company calls it's initiatives and goals sustainable, yet proposed and moved forward with a project (their flagship) they knew could not pay off it's loans. They were forgiven $26 million or they'd probably be bankrupt.

Maybe it's that we have few remnants of wild Kansas to visit between the big ag fields and suburban sprawl, so when a theme park is proposed in the middle of the prairie at the state park, visitors and supporters of the park might rather have the prairie.

Larry Sturm 1 year, 2 months ago

3 or 4 big projects won't bring in the kind of money that the race track does.

Melinda Henderson 1 year, 2 months ago

It's not Lawrence/Douglas County's job to fix the Brownback budget FUBARs.

Carol Bowen 1 year, 2 months ago

The whitewater development does not have to be at Clinton Park to bring in more revenue to sustain state parks. Wouldn't two recreation areas distinctly different be better that one hybrid recreation center? What about the Sunflower Ammunitions property? That property has needed redevelopment for quite a while.

And, here's an underlying concern. What about the infrastructure the city would have to expand, streets and highways, utilities? And, how many jobs would be added at what level? Recreation, by itself, brings little revenue. That's not economic development.

Bob Summers 1 year, 2 months ago

The Liberal can spend the money they confiscate, and they constantly need more money. But, they can not, at the very least, rally around a new and creative way to create money they so desperately need to spend.

This is truly a frightening condition to have to deal with.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 2 months ago




Alex Landazuri 1 year, 2 months ago

what exactly does your comment have to do with the discussion bob? right now i think you need to go back to your cave or corner. adults are trying to talk here....

Bob Smith 1 year, 2 months ago

If Whitewater wants to pour millions of dollars into a hole in the ground, let them do it with their own money.

Melinda Toumi 1 year, 2 months ago

What part of "NO!" was difficult to understand?

Marilyn Hull 1 year, 2 months ago

"Douglas County and the City of Lawrence would have to file a joint application for the bonds, a decision that would have to be made by both local governing bodies."

Contact your city and county commissioners and let them know that you oppose applying for STAR bonds for this project. And once the city commission race gets underway in the fall, ask candidates to take a position against this project.

Bob Forer 1 year, 2 months ago

i understand Matt Herbert is 100% opposed to this project. he is up for reelection in November, and we need to support him.

Paul Youk 1 year, 2 months ago

Reinstate the taxes, you incompetent, lying frauds.

Bad ideas meant to put a band-aid on a manufactured budget crisis.

Bob Summers 1 year, 2 months ago

The "incompetent, lying frauds" self made "budget crises" is a result of spending too much of other peoples money on too many employees.

They need to cut the budget to eliminate the need for a band-aid.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Get out of town go back to where you came from. You are nothing but tax dollar moochers and show zero respect for the local people.

Gross dollars generated by this project go to North Carolina = tax payers and consumers lose. This project will do nothing to repair the Koch/Brownback Supply Side Economics fiasco.

Taxpayers own the property. Thus far a majority of the largest stakeholders aka taxpayers do not want this in our parks.

Taxpayers should support a complete environmental impact statement! And have it throughly examined by a taxpayer approved authority. Misinformation can be bought and we taxpayers don't want to get duped again.

How will this project negatively impact the neighbors quality of life and property values?

How will this project negatively impact all local retail operations and hotel operations? Any new project that effectively pulls business away from existing enterprises is not smart business.

The infrastructure TAX DOLLAR costs to the taxpayers must be fully examined to the T.

Who is responsible for the maintenance of the new infrastructure? HOW MUCH IN ADDITIONAL TAX DOLLARS.

All money making potential is nothing but speculation.

The people in Lawrence,Kansas are NOT the same as people in North Carolina.

Bob Summers 1 year, 2 months ago

"You are nothing but tax dollar moochers and show zero respect for the local people".


Government people and you Liberals that support their parasitical money grubbing are nothing but tax dollar moochers and show ZERO respect for the working stiff paying your way.

Good catch Heckler!

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Working stiffs cannot afford this wasteful tax dollar boondoggle........

Bob Summers 1 year, 2 months ago

Exactly right. Stiffs cannot afford tax moochers in government.

Where's the respect I tell ya!

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 2 months ago

No, he was talking about rich corporations, who are too cowardly to risk their own money and want to get it from us.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Jobs at recreation centers are low paying jobs ....... absolutely.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Where is the white water?

Clinton Lake water levels drop considerably in the peak season annually and usually it is caused by a drought.

WE citizens cannot afford to lose the economic growth spending from our core business districts nor can we afford higher water supply costs that this project could create from excessive water demand.

Builders will not be able to create new unwanted neighborhoods that cannot be filled because there will a water supply shortage.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

The tax base cannot afford to provide Lawrence taxpayers with a complete streets project so we're told which would do more for generating new economic growth for Lawrence.

STAR bonds are a financing mechanism that allows a city's portion of state sales tax from a designated district to be used to pay off the bonds = a new taxpayer debt.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 2 months ago

What is a "white water center"? I was in the Navy for 4 years and do not remember seeing any "white water"........It was all blue...... (the "deep blue sea") The only reference to "white water" I remember was stormy weather, hurricanes, high winds and heavy seas.

Will there be high winds and heavy seas for this "white water" center"???

Can anyone explain this term to a decidedly ignorant old reprobate?? Is this something new in the use of water I do not know anything about??

Brock Masters 1 year, 2 months ago

What??? I thought it simulated one of the Clinton scandals :)

Rick Masters 1 year, 2 months ago

If only there was a way to find out what things mean.

Laura Green 1 year, 2 months ago

I attended the session, and listed to Linda Craighead tell us her life story (she was born in Alma!) and waste the first 1/2 hour. Then when Jeff Wise finally got it together and spoke, he told us about the "lifestyle" he was promoting, and showed two videos of the NC amusement park he runs. If you were ever in any doubt that this project is for white privileged persons, those videos of blonde ponytails swinging and buff twenty-somethings climbing fake rocks, cast those doubts aside. NC is only 68% white, yet oddly, there were no minorities in the videos. Perhaps they are camera shy? And what about the middle class and poor who can't afford the fees? Well, there will be no camping for you! Wise made that clear when he said they don't allow camping or RVs in their park..."you don't want to be out on a trail biking and come around a corner and see the Osborn's eating fried chicken." Whoa. Apparently he doesn't know how many fried chicken places are within 5 miles of the lake.

I couldn't get out of Linda what the next steps are in this process, and there aren't any other sessions scheduled. Unless we get active this is going to be a done deal.

Melissa Kounelaki 1 year, 2 months ago

I was there, too, and Mr. Wise did seem to reiterate that his company supported a "lifestyle", not a "place". However, he didn't quite seem to understand that everyone there already subscribed to the same "lifestyle" as most of us were hikers/ runners/bikers/fishers etc. I, too, noticed that the "place" in NC did portray a lot of privileged (white) people in the videos, but I'm sure the camps of "underprivileged" kids that they supposedly support were not. Even the 2 people people who said they think this place is a good idea, didn't necessarily think it was good in the proposed Clinton park area. Not just no, but OH HELL NO!

Marilyn Hull 1 year, 2 months ago

Our city and county commissioners can kill this project by not signing on to the financing deal. It's important to let them know how their constituents feel before this gets any more traction.

Melinda Henderson 1 year, 2 months ago

Ahhh, so they did show the "Whitewater Too White" promo. First time I saw it I was stunned. Then I watched it again, from home, just to make sure everyone was white. Then I threw up in my mouth a little. Disgusting.

Jim Knight 1 year, 2 months ago

I won't vote for anyone who votes for this. It's not good for Lawrence. The town is already too big, and city leaders should be considering limits on growth, not adding more. The city is the place we call home, not a factory for making money for a few individuals.

Phillip Chappuie 1 year, 2 months ago

So here is one for you I just thought of. Given the rather significant amount of water this thing would use, and the developer would have no water rights (purchased or granted), would they need to enter into a water contract with the KWO like municipalities and large industry does? Maybe they would need to purchase x number of acre feet of storage space in Clinton? I'm afraid water that falls from the sky is not free once it hits the ground in Kansas. #boondoggle

Brock Masters 1 year, 2 months ago

Phillip, you raise a very good point. This is a water use and like any other in the state needs a permit. some might say, well it's going right back into the lake, but there will be greater evaporation which is a water use. Additionally, permits are very specific on not only quantity but use.

Let them go through the water permit process just like a farmer that wants to change his irrigation permit to some other use.

John Lee 1 year, 2 months ago

Evaporation, Brock, as well as any water put back in our waterways will have bleach, their water pathogen killer in use after the ameoba death investigation.

David Holroyd 1 year, 2 months ago

Operates as a non profit but with paid directors and staff. The new snake oil medicine scheme nowdays is non profit.

What's KU Endowment's involvement in this latest scheme near Lawrence?

Mark Kostner 1 year, 2 months ago

If Lawrence and/or Douglas County is footing the bill for this whitewater park and the thing is only 40 acres, create a city park and put it there. A good place would be on or near Rock Chalk Park since it's being presented as a venue for KU watersports or the hilly wooded terrain nearby and near the K-10 & I-70 junction for access and visibility. $70M is a lot of money and the city needs to make sure it's getting its bang for the buck. It sounds more and more that this should be an amusement park on private property with hotel and shopping center and built as a real estate development not a state park attraction.

John Lee 1 year, 2 months ago

I suggested it be along the river, in association with the rowing team's presence, to make a rowing and paddling culture hot spot for the whole region. I think it would be cool for aspiring paddlers to know that some KU scouts may be watching or paddling next to them.

Really, I was throwing him a bunch of bones, but he didn't bite on a single idea. "I've got other friends, so if you guys don't wanna play, I'll just go hang out with them." ... to which I thought, "no, that boils it down to a yes or no answer for you, whereas a lot of us are trying to provide alternatives and constructive feedback."

He only got paid to see if the park could work at Clinton Lake, not to survey the area and see where it could work, which would have been a wiser use of whatever monies the state's already provided him.

Bob Forer 1 year, 2 months ago

I understand a local well respected activist has started a facebook group opposed to this boondoggle. Check it out, and check back often.

David Holroyd 1 year, 2 months ago

When is Clinton going to be dredged again...?

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago



David Holroyd 1 year, 2 months ago

When is Clinton expected to be dredged again?

Now, Mr. Heckler, you can post again and have the last word.....maybe!

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