BEND, OR -- Safety complaints about Bend's new whitewater park led to the closure of the Passageway Channel, Thursday. Thousands visited the Deschutes River last weekend, during the first hot weather of the season. Some felt the rapids were not as "family friendly" as promised.
Bend Parks and Rec Executive Director Don Horton tells KBND News, "One of the reasons why we did this is we feel the facilities that we have built and provided to the community are high quality recreation experiences for people; and what we have here hasn't lived up to our standards and hasn't lived up to what we've made a commitment to the community that we will provide for this facility. So, we need to go back to the drawing board and see what we can do to make this a better experience for people."
The Passageway Channel, described during the design phase of the project as "safe for floaters," has received a lot of attention in the past week. Horton says, "We only had one person at [this week's] board meeting that spoke about a concern of safety in the Passageway Channel. But, we've had a lot of people either through social media or contacting us directly about the concern for safety and the experience that they had."
He says it will likely remain closed through the summer. "People will still be able to float the river and use the portage path to get out and walk around, and enter on the beach at McKay Park, just like they have done in years past. The Whitewater Channel, which is the center channel, will continue to be open. We actually just had some repair work done to that channel that was successful, so we will continue to allow the experienced boaters and surfers to use that center channel because we don't see the same concern with that as we do with the Passageway Channel."
Parks and Rec plans to meet next week with engineers and whitewater experts to evaluate what can be done to improve safety on the Passageway Channel.