Whitewater river feature taking Manchester from good to great - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Whitewater river feature taking Manchester from good to great

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MANCHESTER (KWWL) -

River recreation fever is spreading nationwide, and Iowa communities are looking to capitalize on that.

It's been two years now since Charles City opened a whitewater recreation feature on the Cedar River. Thanks in part to that attraction's success, a number of Iowa communities are now in various stages of following suit.

Those include Manchester, which is now less than $50,000 away from its $630,000 fundraising goal.

On the corner of Franklin and Main streets, folks in downtown Manchester can watch the funds rise on a giant poster tracking the amount of dollars donated for the city's whitewater park, set to open in 2014.

Wes Schulte and Diane Hammell are two of the co-chairs for the project's capital campaign drive.

"It's such a great project," Schulte said. "I'm a big kayaker, fisherman, kind of outdoor enthusiast, and we just feel that this project is a huge asset for the community of Manchester."

Plans have the now-calm stretch of the Maquoketa River that snakes through the downtown area turning into a whitewater feature with six drops for paddlers, places for picnicking and fishing pools. Plus, the design may help mitigate flooding, which is a problem, especially, for a nearby stretch of Main Street.

Doug Hawker is on the committee that has helped pioneer this project.

"What the hydraulic engineers tell us is that we're probably going to have slightly lower water during high water conditions than what we have routinely had in the past," Hawker said. "And on low water conditions during drought, such as we had last year, the water upstream will be slightly higher."

Between the lures of fishing, kayaking, tubing, canoeing and more, leaders hope to see both tourists and locals getting more out of the Manchester area, which is part of the community's Good to Great initiative.

"There's a lot of river enthusiasts, but there's also the support of economic development, thinking about the folks that come in here to use our river," Hammell said. "Also, there's quality of life. Small towns, things to do...attracting people that want to live and reside here."

In addition to the whitewater project, Delaware County leaders hope to remove the Old Quaker Mill Dam north of town, to improve the health and flow of the Maquoketa River.

"The intention is to open one of the longest stretches of river in Iowa, probably, that's been done," said Hawker, whose parents own the dam and are in favor of its demolition.

The removal of the dam doesn't have a cost estimate yet and would be funded separately from the Good to Great initiative, which includes both the construction of the whitewater feature and a new skate park in Manchester's Central Park.

Between fundraising and grants, Manchester's Good to Great initiative is set to cost $1.7 million. The city has committed $600,000; the state, through Vision Iowa, $400,000; Delaware County is contributing $50,000. The rest of the funds are coming through private donations.

"It just gives everyone an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, whether you're on the banks or in the river, whether it be fishing, tubing, kayaking, canoeing or, you know, just having a sandwich at the park and hanging out," Schulte said. "You know, it's going to be here for everyone to enjoy, and it'll be a great asset."

Project leaders say they're not trying to compete with other cities developing their own whitewater feature. Leaders say they're helping to create a river recreation network to draw visitors to the region.

To learn more about Manchester's whitewater plans, click HERE.

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