Whitewater Park Launches New Future for Cascade, Deepens Community Engagement for University

Thursday, May 27 2010

MOSCOW, Idaho – When a Cascade Whitewater Park on the Payette River opens next month, it signifies more than a new tourist attraction. It showcases what can happen when a community joins together and generates a unified vision.

Between 1990 and 2000, Idaho was one of the five fastest-growing states in the U.S. While Cascade's population hadn't boomed like larger cities within the state, the historic timber and mining town still faced critical economic, ecological, cultural and planning challenges in 2007.

Enter in the Idaho Horizons program. Managed by University of Idaho Extension, Horizons is part of a seven-state initiative funded by the Northwest Area Foundation to reduce rural and reservation poverty. A handful of community members from Cascade, including the mayor, traveled to Riggins for a Horizons workshop facilitated by Extension faculty. During that initial visioning process, residents started to share thoughts on local issues, improve their leadership skills, and take action to address poverty and other town challenges.

"We were ready for a new and unique vision," said R.W. "Dick" Carter, mayor of Cascade. "The motivation and ideas presented by Extension were readily received by our community. We realized this was more than talk – it was doable."

Carter noted that Extension Educator Barbara Bromley-Brody helped carry the group's vision to the larger Cascade community. "We were motivated to get going. With Barb's help, and the instruction provided from the Horizons workshop, things just took off," he noted.

In fall 2008, the University of Idaho's Building Sustainable Communities Initiative and the College of Art and Architecture joined the project to help create a participatory and grounded vision for Cascade. They developed concepts for community design that involved green infrastructure, community wellness, civic architecture and affordable housing. In spring 2009, the Bioregional Planning and Community Design students and faculty worked at the larger, regional scale to create a regional asset website, develop economic feasibility studies for community projects and provide assistance with the Cascade’s comprehensive plan.

"The students wanted to do a lot, and we welcomed them with open arms," said Carter. "They were fresh, they had new ideas and they weren't afraid to share with us. They had horizons without limits, and they brought a great enthusiasm to Cascade that made us want to do more and be more."

"Cascade is a community in transition with new opportunities in recreation and services rather than their past resource extraction based economy," said Steve Drown, professor and chair of Landscape Architecture and Extension education specialist in Bioregional Planning and Landscape Architecture.

Among the ideas presented to the community was the whitewater park, which would stimulate tourism activity. In March 2009, a generous $500,000 gift to the Friends of the Cascade Whitewater Park from Mark and Kristina Pickard of Miami, Fla., jumpstarted the work on the project.

Named in honor of Kristina’s late sister, Kelly Brennan, Kelly’s Whitewater Park is slated to open June 14. Preliminary economic analysis suggests that the park could generate in excess of $1 million in retail business annually to area merchants.

"The energy of the park development and donor involvement catalyzed the community and created a new vision," said Drown. "It has given the community a new drive to look at comprehensive plan work and entrepreneurial opportunity."

The park features five man-made features, and offers kayakers, rafters, canoeists and even tubers an exciting place to play and train. A Welcome Center uses photographs, artifacts and articles to focus on the Native Americans that inhabited the valley, the first settlers, the first industries – mining and timber, along with agriculture and now recreation. The river side of the building is stepped down the bank and provides amphitheater seating with a 180-degree view of the river and the features.

"It's absolutely breathtakingly beautiful," said Carter. "We accomplished many years worth of work in a single year."

But the community work doesn't end there. The Whitewater Park is the first phase of what is now envisioned as a 200-acre park along the river. Plans are in development to expand the park along the river, build a new community recreation center, convert lagoons into a large wetland and re-evaluate the area's master plan.

"We want our community to be a destination – a place where people intentionally come visit, stay, walk around and enjoy what we have to offer," said Carter.

He noted that Lake Cascade is the most underutilized body of water in the state, and said plans include a marina, children's park and walking trails to increase use.

"We plan to continue working with the University of Idaho," Carter said. "It's been an absolutely marvelous relationship with the professors and students. One of the greatest things that have happened to Cascade is having the university work with us. It's changed our future."

"The University of Idaho is able to respond to the full range of community design and planning needs in communities like Cascade because of our multidisciplinary model of outreach and engagement," said Drown. "This type of experience is invaluable to our students, and provides quality of life impacts in the community. It's a win-win situation for all involved."

The university's continued work in the community has many benefits. It will provide increased economic and social diversity, and help develop a place-based economy that enables families of several generations to live and work in Cascade. The project also has allowed students to develop strong design concepts that lead to professional consulting opportunities, and helped the university develop strong partnerships between disciplinary units that lead to enhanced cooperative engagement for the good of the Cascade community.

For more information about the College of Art and Architecture's work in Cascade, visit www.uidaho.edu/caa/news/features/features/movingforwardincascade. Learn more about the Idaho Horizons program online: www.extension.uidaho.edu/horizons/.
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. The university is home to the Vandals, the 2009 Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl champions. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.