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Planning begins for OC-area surf park


Clackamas County Tourism and Cultural Affairs recently awarded a $58,950 grant to We Love Clean Rivers to develop a plan for a whitewater surf park on the lower Clackamas River.

WLCR is a nonprofit organization dedicated to cleaning and restoring high-use rivers by mobilizing the recreation community in partnership with local environmental, recreational and educational organizations.

Both WLCR and the county believe such a park would make the lower Clackamas River a destination spot for whitewater kayakers, stand-up paddlers, surfers, river boarders and canoeists.

“A whitewater surf park on the lower Clackamas River will offer great tourism benefits to the local area,” said Sam Drevo, president of WLCR. “Whitewater parks across the country have created booms in tourism and economic development by promoting recreation, training, commerce, improved safety and fish habitat.”

As an example he cited a whitewater park in Golden, Colo., where the public investment has had an economic impact of $1.8 million a year and improved fish habitat in Clear Creek.

Clackamas County’s funding will cover preliminary engineering, design and cost estimates from McLaughlin Whitewater Design, which has experience in this field. At a public meeting to be scheduled, a fish-agency representative will present on habitat plans, while an economic impact study will highlight community benefits such as improved tourism, safety, environmental awareness and litter reduction.

“Partnering with river and wildlife stewards as well as PGE, this grant will provide an understanding of potential sites along the Clackamas where river health and river play can be dynamically combined,” said county tourism spokeswoman Jae Heidenreich.

Whitewater and stand-up paddling have been growing in popularity in Oregon, yet are a largely untapped target for river tourism. Organizers expect that a shortened commute time and easy access could generate an “after work” crowd on the lower Clackamas, serving a pent-up demand for outdoor whitewater recreation.

Partners also hope the project will benefit fish habitat on the lower Clackamas. “A well-designed and constructed water feature could provide habitat benefits for fish and aquatic life as well as for boaters,” said Tim Shibahara, Portland General Electric fish biologist.

More info can be found at WeLoveCleanRivers.org