The Turkey River in Elkader has long been a source of recreation for both visitors and locals - everything from tubing and paddling to fishing.
Now the city wants to further capitalize on that and build a white water recreation feature on the river, but that would require the demolition of the city's so-called "little dam." (That's not to be confused with the distinctively larger "big dam" just upriver of the Bridge Street bridge.)
Longtime Elkader resident Bob Wiedner said he is not opposed to the white water river recreation feature, he just wants it built without tearing down the little dam, which has been an Elkader staple for decades.
"It's just part of Elkader, I feel, and a lot of other people do, too," Wiedner said. "I don't understand why they can't incorporate both of them together. Have the good of the future and the good of the past."
Wiedner organized a petition drive, gathering nearly 300 signatures, he said, protesting the little dam's demolition and asking for a vote in the matter.
"We got shot down on that. We were told that the people had no say-so in it," Wiedner said, recounting the city council meeting about a month ago where he presented the petition. "I'd like to see the town be able to vote on it."
Elkader mayor Bob Garms said that's not a requirement in this nearly $450,000 project.
"Because there's no city tax money being involved in this, there's no bond issue that's necessary," Garms said. "We're looking at about a $450,000 program that we're doing, and most of that is coming from grants and donations, so we really don't need to go to a vote."
Garms said if the city builds the new feature in the ideal spot, about 100 yards down river of the little dam, the old structure has to go.
"Yes, we are taking out the little dam, but we are going to be replacing it with more of a natural dam that's going to encourage fishing habitat, kayaking and that type of thing-- things that are going to attract more people to Elkader," Garms said.
Fans of the white water boating and recreation feature say it would be a boost for the whole community.
Jade Beck, manager of the Treats on Bridge Street Bistro, said she wouldn't mind seeing extra tourism dollars.
"The city is kind of split on who's for it and against it, but a lot of people who are really outdoor recreation enthusiasts like I am think it would be a great idea," Beck said. "It would also, I think, be aesthetically pleasing if you had some of that white water going through town. It would be really beautiful, so I think it would have multiple purposes."
Garms said the city has been planning for the new river feature since 2008 and there have been periodic opportunities for public input.
The city is in the permitting process now with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and US Army Corps of Engineers. The river feature could be complete as early as this summer, Garms said.
For more on the city's white water feature plans, click HERE and see the Turkey River Whitewater Concept Update section.
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