Tuckaseigee River in Dillsboro

Dillsboro officials Monday (May 13) were asked by Barry Kennon, a kayaking champion who's a former member of the U.S. national whitewater team, to create a whitewater park on the Tuckaseigee River in the area once impounded by the Dillsboro Dam. According to Kennon, the river's "geology, gradient and hydraulic features" are tailor-made for a whitewater park.

By Quintin Ellison

A whitewater kayaking champion is urging the Dillsboro town board to turn the former dam area on the Tuckaseigee River into a whitewater park.

Barry Kennon, who owns property in Jackson County and was a member of U.S. national whitewater kayak teams for slalom and freestyle, told board members Monday (May 13) that the river’s “geology, gradient and hydraulic features” are tailor-made for a whitewater park.

Kennon said that Dillsboro is the “paddling crossroads” of the Southeast, with the town located in the epicenter of major metropolitan areas – all within drives of a few hours.

“We have a perfect storm of conditions and location in Dillsboro at the former dam site for a man-made whitewater park,” he said.

Kennon said that the development and funding required to build a whitewater park would be minimal.

Three years ago, as part of its relicensing process, Duke Energy removed the 12-foot high, 310-foot long rock and concrete dam on the Tuckaseigee River.

“Annual events such as river races and whitewater competitions will add to the economic growth,” Kennon said. “A whitewater park will bring in money and offset the days the train does not run. Tourism power will fuel the renaissance of Dillsboro. We have a great resource in our river, and we need to use it to bring in tourist dollars.”

Mayor Mike Fitzgerald reminded Kennon that Duke Energy controls the area around the former dam until the power company has satisfied streambank restoration and vegetation requirements that are part of federal relicensing agreements. He told The Herald Tuesday that the specified period will be up in November, and that Dillsboro will have first right of refusal on the 13 acres in question.

He also indicated the town was aware of the river’s significance, saying Dillsboro had developed a master plan that included a traditional park beside the river.

Town board member Jimmy Cabe asked who would maintain a whitewater park.

Kennon said that “all this stuff is cemented into place,” and that building the whitewater park would involve moving rocks in the river and clearing out some of the river channels.

“We have it in the hopper,” Fitzgerald said.

In other business, the town board:

During a work session, discussed a tree that was in Scott’s Creek near the walking bridge and another in the same area that is threatening to fall in the waterway. “It needs to come out of there,” town board member Tim Parris said of the standing tree. “It’s going to fall plum across the creek.” Other board members agreed, saying they were worried about a potential buildup of debris in a future flood.

During the regular meeting, passed two resolutions in favor of changing the director of the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority from a contract to an employee. The director will continue to answer to the TWSA board.

Passed a resolution recognizing North Carolina Domestic Violence Proclamation 100 Day. Mothers on a Mission has dedicated Saturday, June 15, to a statewide educational event on the issues of domestic and teen dating violence.

Passed a resolution recognizing Lyme Disease Awareness Month.

Without comment, passed the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget. The total budget for Dillsboro in 2013-2014 will be $167,147. There is no tax increase planned. Dillsboro’s current tax rate is 24 cents per $100 valuation, which includes a three-cent fire tax.