Steamboat Springs Peter Van De Carr can still remember a time when kayakers packed the slalom course on the Yampa River in front of Rich Weiss Park.
Times have changed, but Van De Carr thinks the technical course that weaves through the eddies and rolling waters of the river still has a place in the town. Van De Carr appeared before the Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission last week on behalf of the Friends of the Yampa River in an effort to save the slalom course.
The commission agreed the course should survive, but Van De Carr says it's important for his group to follow through with a promise not only to maintain the park, but also to continue efforts to improve it.
"It has been there since 1984 or 1985," Van De Carr said. "So it has held up pretty well."
He said the course, which is a series of gates suspended above the water by wires, is in need of some work. The flowing waters have eroded some of the banks, exposing the concrete bases of the footers, which hold the poles for the course. Those poles suspend the wires.
"The city would really like to see us upgrade the facility," Van De Carr said. "I think that's something we can do."
The Friends of the Yampa will take the first steps during a course maintenance party scheduled for 1 p.m. Sept. 21. Van De Carr said the city of Steamboat has been very supportive of the effort and has volunteered tools and the help of a few city staff members. However, volunteers are welcome and will make the improvements go much faster, he said.
"We should be able to complete all of the necessary improvements by 5 p.m.," Van De Carr said. "Then we will have a good, old-fashioned cookout at the park."
Van De Carr is hoping the improvements will do a lot more for downtown Steamboat Springs than spruce up that section of the river.
He thinks course improvements could kick start the sport of slalom kayak racing in our valley.
Next summer, Van De Carr plans to market the kayak course and the slalom aspect of the annual Yampa River Festival more effectively than it has in the past. Once, slalom racing was the biggest part of the festival, but it has taken a back seat to the river rodeo in recent years. The river rodeo has grown into one of the biggest events of the festival and is held farther down the river at Charlie's Hole.
Van De Carr said the success of the more extreme events is cool, but he is hoping the slalom is not lost in the fast-moving whitewater. He believes that there are kayakers who enjoy running gates, and he is hoping the improvements will spark a renewed interest in slalom racing.
"It would be great to develop a bit more interest in the course locally," Van De Carr said. "Attention to the river, in the form of positive activity, will help construct more play features, plant more trees and riparian plants."
The Friends' efforts recently got a boost from Bonnie Beavers who donated $2,000 to the group's general fund. That money will be used to help with maintenance and improvements including work on the slalom course.
Bonnie is the mother of Charlie Beavers, a well-known local kayaker who died in October 2002.
"Charlie was a creek boater, but I'm sure he would be happy to see money spent on the slalom course," Bonnie said. "He was a kayaker and he supported anything that would bring people down to the river."
Charlie's Hole was named in his honor. Bonnie says supporting groups such as the Friends of the Yampa and protecting the waters that flow through Steamboat have been a priority since Charlie's death.
"Charlie grew up on the waters of the Yampa River," Bonnie said. "Those were some very happy years for him."