Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Bringing Whitewater Kayaking to Your Community

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Bringing Whitewater Kayaking to Your Community

Article excerpt

In the parks and recreation field, we are always looking for that next new program: one that gets people outside, active and interacting with nature. A program that not only provides fun and enjoyment, but also allows participants to learn to respect nature and teaches them to be one with the environment instead of trying to control it. For me, this next new program is whitewater kayaking. A sport that has seen growth around the globe, from Olympic paddlers to world-champion freestyle boaters, whitewater kayaking has grown into a worldwide phenomenon.

Getting Over the Initial Hurdles

Bringing this sport to our communities is challenging to say the least. Hurdles such as liability insurance, qualified instructors, equipment and finding good whitewater can stand in the way of providing this amazing opportunity to our towns and cities. The challenges, however, are not insurmountable and, beyond them, are the benefits of a solid whitewater kayaking program.

Whitewater kayaking can be learned by all ages, by individuals with disabilities and by those with no athletic background. The sport allows adults to get outside and stay active in a new environment. It also teaches teens and youth about respecting nature, cooperation and self-reliance--skills that will help them in the future. Most importantly, whitewater kayaking can give all of us a new program to help drive interest in our parks and promote partnerships with local river stewardship organizations, guides and outfitters, and youth organizations.

No Prior Experience Needed

To overcome the challenges and obstacles mentioned above, a programmer must stay vigilant. Be prepared to fight for your new program. I had a kayaking background before starting my whitewater kayaking camp. I had been paddling whitewater for more than five years and had my own contacts in the field. However, no prior experience is necessary to bring this program to your community.

To get the process started, doing some research on your area is necessary: Where is the closest whitewater to your town or city? Is it good beginner water (Class I/II) or is it more of an expert run (Class III/IV/V)? Rivers are classified I-V, with Class I being the easiest and Class V being runs for experts only. A good teaching river will have good Class I/II water, but nothing higher.

A good resource for this research is American Whitewater (https://www.americanwhitewater.org/), a nonprofit dedicated to paddling and river stewardship. Their website contains a list of every whitewater river in the United States and beyond. …

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