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Roanoke city manager floats Wasena Park kayak project

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skd KayakerRoanokeRiver 060320 p01 (copy)

A kayaker on the Roanoke River, not far from Wasena Park.

Roanoke City Manager Bob Cowell on Tuesday proposed building a $2 million kayaking spot in the Roanoke River adjacent to Wasena Park.

Cowell was presenting a one-year update on special city projects funded with pandemic relief dollars, when he floated a few ideas expected to receive detailed attention at a future meeting, including an “in-river kayak park” at Wasena.

Crews construct an “in-river” recreation area by installing natural features such as rocks to create waves and rapids, said Michael Clark, director of parks and recreation. Boaters would park on site, run the gauntlet of water challenges and repeat as interested, Clark said. It would be designed with a bypass for through boat traffic, he said.

A 2015 study of water flow identified Wasena and Explore Park in Roanoke County as two of the best area locations for a kayaking park. Roanoke applied for federal grant money for an even larger project than the Wasena concept being discussed, but was turned down. Cowell proposed using pandemic-relief monies not yet allocated to projects to pay for it instead. He did not present the project for a vote.

Since last fall, the city has budgeted three-fourths of a $64.5 million grant received through the American Rescue Plan Act, which funneled billions of dollars to localities for a variety of projects including those related to health and welfare and economic recovery. More than 25 previously approved projects are underway. They include replacement of the Eureka Park Recreation Center at up to $13 million; a $10 million development focused on food access and financial wellness in the vicinity of Melrose Avenue and 24th Street NW; a $5 million development in Gainsboro for the development of minority and women-owned small businesses with health and wellness services; $3 million to expand bus transit; $3 million to expand employment; and $2 million to reduce gun violence.

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Jeff Sturgeon covers the city of Roanoke, including schools, banking and transportation. Phone: (540) 981-3251. Email: jeff.sturgeon@roanoke.com. Mail: 201 W. Campbell Ave., Roanoke, VA 24011.

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