Trinity River Project's Standing Wave: Great, Now City Hall's Trying to Kill Us

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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The city of Dallas sent out a lovely little notice earlier this week inviting people of the canoe paddling ilk -- which would be me -- to attend the opening of the Dallas Trinity Paddling Trail, a canoe "path" on the Trinity River, established as part of a statewide system of canoe trails.

The invitation describes the 10-mile canoe trail as passing "under the beautiful new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge designed by world renowned Spanish architect and engineer, Santiago Calatrava; through the new Dallas Wave whitewater area or the calm bypass channel with landscaped embankments and kayakers at play; and into the 6,000 acres of the Great Trinity Forest."

That's all well and good and certainly presents a picture that paddlologists like myself would find appealing, but I do have a caveat. I've been working on a story about the Standing Wave thing, which appears in the paper version of Unfair Park. From what I have been able to glean, if you and your children take the city's sweet advice and steer your canoe through the "calm bypass channel with landscaped embankments and kayakers at play," some or all of you may die.

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Photo by Harry Wilonsky
As in: Croak. Drown. Expire. No walkie-talkie no more.

The first big problem is that there is no calm bypass channel with landscaped embankments. There are two concrete chutes that form what hydraulic engineers call a "hydraulic jet" at the bottom.

Canoe outfitter Charles Allen tells me the turbulence in the hydraulic jet area is so great that the average canoer with a boatload of family members pretty much does not stand a chance of getting through without capsizing. Once out of the boat, you and your family will find yourselves flailing through a kind of hydraulic Cuisinart.

The guy who tested the bypass for the city told them to rebuild it. Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Willis Winters told me the city is trying to get a price from the contractor for rebuilding it.

That tells me they know it's unsafe. And yet here is this invitation from the city telling people to come on down and try it.

I tried to reach Judy Schmidt, the marketing director for the river (do we know we have a problem when a river needs a marketing director?), but I have received radio silence so far.

Shelly Plante in Austin, director of the paddling trails program statewide for the Texas Department of Parks and Recreation, told me this week she was trying to get the same answers from the city I was before the scheduled opening of the paddling trail May 10.

Plante said she had called the city "to ask them point blank what the deal is with the wave. I keep hearing from other people but not from them.

"That's not a conspiracy or anything. I just think there has been a breakdown in communication. I am asking them exactly these questions. Is this going to be safe?"

So the beat goes on: Will the city of Dallas some day, one day, one way or another get just one little thing right about the Trinity River project?

But go ahead and take a chance if you want. Especially if you have extra kids.


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38 comments
Joe Smith
Joe Smith

It's so d**m ugly too, in other areas in the nation where they have these man made standing waves for rivers, they use natural boulders and rocks to blend in with the surroundings, not some nasty cheap concrete looking thing. There are 2nd rate water parks with better decor. For the amount of money they spent on this, you think they would of at least created something that looked nice, especially since if we try it out it may just be the last thing we see.

Everything they're doing for this river project seems horrible, I'm all for the actual planting of trees and what not, but I think they should of dredged the entire river and made the shipping channel instead of attempting to make some kind of a River Walk 2.0, they still could of planted trees and put trails on both sides of it, and it would of been cool to see boats going up and down the river, not to mention possibly taking a boat ride down to houston

Catbird
Catbird

Could this be the real reason that Mayor Leppert resigned early?

Craig
Craig

Dallas, trying being yourself for a change.

This contrived BS excuse just makes y'all look silly.

Blubblubblub
Blubblubblub

Whatever happened to the "flood control project"? Is that not funded either? So far they've added kayking rapids and half a bridge. Awesome job, Dallas.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

So lets talk trade offs .What DONE RIGHT would have cost VS what the the RUBE's at city hall traded off in features to get the rapids at a budget Dallas had in mind.

Canoeman
Canoeman

In Boy Scouts, and again in ROTC, I was taught that leadership is leading, not just telling somebody else to do something. It is past time for our city leaders to lead by example. I think that anybody who was a part of approving, funding, overseeing or promoting the Trinity Canoe Trail and Dallas Wave should lead by example and demonstrate just how safe it really is, and it IS safe ... unless you consider the facts that the bypass chute is actually a bigger hazard than the wave, that the damned access point is on the hard side rather than the easy side of the channel, that the water is full of pathogens, bacteria, PCBs and other contaminants that will sicken or kill you.

One of the requirements for "enjoying" the Trinity River from a boat should be that every person on the river wears an E-suit - you know, one of those hazardous materials protection suits similar to what people wear when entering a contaminated nuclear reactor core.

There were plenty of dangers to that river long before the wave was built. Now, the design concept has added a new level of risk for novice boaters. But there is a far greater threat that nobody is talking about. Not all who get into the water at the wave will be properly attired boaters. In San Marcos, the vast majority of people playing in the whitewater park (brownwater, as in the case of the Trinity) are minority children who see a free playground, and none is wearing ANY type of protective clothing. Of course, the San Marcos is a clear, clean, spring-fed river, whereas the Trinity is a ditch full of industrial solvents and toxins, animal feces that produces exhorbitant levels of E.Coli bacteria that dwarfs maximum safe exposure levels and who knows what else?

It was irresponsible to spend money to build this monstrosity, and now the city has spent over $4 Million. We are facing a budget shortfall of $46-91 million for the next two years, and that is likely to grow with reductions in revenues from the federal and state governments, so there will be no more money for maintenance, repairs or future modifications coming down the pike for a very long time. And, there will NEVER be the tens or hundreds of billions of dollars available that would be required to clean the river and make its water safe. Segment 0805, where the wave is located, is rated as one of the three most polluted streams in Texas, and is classed by TCEQ and the EPA as "unsafe for human contact." Apparently, there is a significant segment of our population who does not understand the meaning of those words, but the Darwin Awards were created just for such people, and their numbers will mitigate over time as they play in that water.

So, let's start the mitigation process by getting those whose efforts led to this thing being built to be among the first to demonstrate it for us, and then we can get on with what to do to remediate what was created with the wasteful spending of over $4 Million that we really did not have to spend in the first place. Tom Leppert, where are you? I'll loan you a canoe! Mary Suhm can ride with you in it!

bartona
bartona

The river's carried a few bodies in its day, but when's the last time it actually killed anyone? I think it's just getting hungry.

Jeremy
Jeremy

These city projects are turning out to be more and more like a Zac Crain post: purely hypothetical, turbulent, incomprehensible, and self-destructive.

scottindallas
scottindallas

So, until they fix this it sounds like it might be kinda fun. I appreciate the advisory that you don't want to take the kids nor a laden canoe down, but for one or two who know how to swim, seeking an adventure is it reasonably safe? That does assume that getting a little wet isn't itself dangerous.

dertymindz
dertymindz

What's that one show they got on the boob-tube? I think it's called "I Survived"? I think they might get a few shows worth out of this lil ditty. Hey, more national exposure for our beloved area.

The Derelict
The Derelict

i'll watch it from the solar powered water taxi snorting blow with my fake rich friends

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

Other City of Dallas recreational activities that sound like Disney World rides but are actually quite dangerous: 1) Mr. Feral Hog's Wild Ride2) 20,000 leagues under the Trinity3) Big Fracking Mountain4) Haunted/Vacant Downtown Building

Tom L (No, Not That L)
Tom L (No, Not That L)

It seems to me that this is all just an intricate plot to do you in, Jim. Once you're out of the way they'll simply tear out the standing wave and pretend it never happened. And it'll work because without you around nobody will call them on it.

Montemalone
Montemalone

I have absolutely no experience whatsoever in canoes or whitewater or sewage canals.How can I get me a bullshit job with the city?

Ben
Ben

You have to read between the lines in that press release. It makes it sound like that some flotilla will embark on a 10 mile trip down the river. Nope. The event will only take place at the Sylvan Avenue Boat Ramp. No trip down the river.

I can tell you right now that the canoe bypass on the north bank(left side) as you approach is a little rougher than just going over the Standing Wave itself.

The other design issue is that the canoe bypass is on the opposite shore from the sidewalks, entry points and little boat ramp for the Dallas Wave/Standing Wave, which are on the south bank(right side). If one were in a canoe and wanted to "chicken out" and portage around the feature they would need to use the other side.

In the future, whenever all this REALLY opens, now looking alot less like 2011 and more like 2012, they should put a couple signs up river, maybe bolt them to the Corinth Street Viaduct, notifying people of the hazard.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

Wasn't this invitation sent out by Mary(the real mayor) Suhm?

TimCov
TimCov

Can you say lawsuit? If anyone is injured or killed after the the city published that notice and they have admitted problems with the bypass, the city's buttocks will be toast in court.

Marc
Marc

First of all, the people downtown were certainly not rubes. They are not paddlers, and have no clue about paddling, which is why they do not understand the term "unsafe for contact recreation", but they are not rubes. They are very shrewd operators who know how to make money for friends, some of which will eventually make its way into their own pockets.

Considering the contamination level of the river, and E. coli bacteria is only a single indicator bacterial, not the whole enchilada, that brownwater park never should have been built at all. It would cost billions, perhaps tens or hundreds of billions, of dollars to dredge and clean the entire river to eliminate the PCBs, heavy metals and other toxins and carcinogens that already pollute the water and soil with or without E. coli bacteria or possibly even frac'ing fluids. We will NEVER have that kind of money. It was a stupid, colossal waste of taxpayer money to build that brownwater park.

But, there are a few more important issues: first, they appear to have not done a federally-mandated Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to determine threats and damage to fish, bird, wildlife and plant life habitat in and along the river corridor. Federal law prevents construction projects that damage ecosystems. I have a pdf document used by the city in planning for the brownwater park. If you could see the destruction to the river bottom that took place you would be appalled, and if you could see what they built on the river bottom you would really be appalled. Our city MAY face federal sanctions costing millions of dollars that we do not have to remediate the damage done, and in the end it could result in having the entire project removed and the river returned to its former natural state at enormous cost to us just so Lieppert and friends could say "Look at what we did for Dallas!"

Second, in about a week or so we are going to find out how much it will cost to make the recreational canoe bypass channel safe for novice and beginner paddlers. The key is that we don't have any money for the repairs to the horribly designed and built project, so it will likely remain closed to the public until money is available. The City of Dallas is facing a budget shortfall of $60-100 Million for the next two years, so no repairs are going to happen anytime soon!

Third, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department just opened the Trinity Paddling Trail which is actually not navigable due to the closure of the brownwater park, so after all the state money expended creating and promoting the paddle trail we have one that has a large section cut right out of the middle of it because of city ineptitude and possibly criminal collusion.

This park that was originally proposed to cost $800,000 has already cost us over $4.2 Million, and now it has to be repaired, at great additional cost, before it can be used. I will be surprised if the cost comes in under $1 million, and it could be twice that. A new coffer dam has to be built so that they can dry the riverbed in the bypass channel. Then, they have to bring in heavy equipment to drive across all that nice grass that was just planted, destroying it and parts of the "beautiful" concrete rip rap that is part of the feature called the brownwater park.

Words cannot do justice to this issue. Go there and see it for yourselves. THIS is what over $4.2 million dollars bought us. San Marcos definitely got a much better deal from the same engineering company that designed both parks. In fact, the designer won't even list the Dallas project on its website of whitewater parks it has designed across the country. Now, why is that?

Whose fault is this? It is the fault of every Dallas citizen who failed to educate himself or herself about this project, and then failed to voice opposition to it. A small handful of paddlers with a vested commercial interest promoted this as a good thing for Dallas, and they got their way because there was not enough opposition. A few of us fought this battle for over two years, but we had very little support from the rest of the city. We are ALL going to pay, in higher taxes and fewer city services, for our failure to stop this nonsense when we had the opportunity.

Unfortunately, this project will probably result in deaths, injuries and illnesses that could cost our city millions more that we do not have all so a very few paddlers can go there to play in contaminated water.

JimS
JimS

Yeah, the wave itself is OK. You need to do what the playboat kayakers do -- wear earplugs and noseplugs because of the extremely high pollution levels. I don't know why no one ever mentions the other end of the body, which seems more vulnerable to me, but maybe there aren't any plugs easily available for that region. I'm thinking of an old-fashioned bathtub plug maybe? Goggles are an absolute must. The problem witht he canoe chute is not just getting wet. You need tot ake a look at it first. It's sort of a concrete rip-rap cattle chute type thing, so you could fall out and then get pretty banged around you flushg out. All of this depends a lot on flow levels in the river of course. But, sure, Scottindallas -- plug up and roll!

Lakewoodhobo
Lakewoodhobo

Would've preferred Haunted Belo Mansion or Mausoleum Tower myself.

JimS
JimS

Urinetown

JimS
JimS

You know why they can't sucker me into canoeing through their little trick wave, Tom L No Not That L? Because they have no idea how really chickenshit I am.

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

Just put "Chief Hydrological and Hydrodynamical Engineer" on your resume. They'll hire you to build a dam on the Trinity to generate power.

Marc
Marc

It now turns out that, on "Grand Opening Day", nobody will actually be able to paddle any part of the Trinity Canoe Trail. Apparently, TPWD did not even think of how hard it would be for most paddlers to take off work to attend a Tuesday opening ceremony, and the city did not think it was necessary to include anybody who would actually paddle on the trail. So, now we will have a Canoe Trail to Nowhere to go along with our Bridge to Nowhere! And, we will have a press conference / ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate this "Great Event".

Chalk up another "victory" for the state and our lovely city!

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

So Ben as an informed person Where in the Start to Finish of this Project do you think someone should have noticed The Design issues that are cropping up after the projects completion ?

Marc
Marc

No, the invitation was sent out by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) who opened 7 new paddling trails in the DFW area over a 2-day period. I attended the one on the Trinity adjacent to downtown. It begins at Sylvan Avenue and ends at Loop 12. The "brownwater" (you KNOW where the brown comes from) is smack dab in the middle of that paddling trail.

The evening before the opening ceremonies the City of Dallas was still saying that the river was closed to recreational traffic. TPWD got them to open it for the opening ceremonies, though not one single dignitary took to a canoe or kayak to "enjoy" that new paddling trail. But, what was interesting was that you could not actually paddle the entire paddling trail. You could only go down to just above the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, then turn around and paddle back upstream to the Svylan boat ramp because (1) construction without the federally-required safety nets is going on at the Hill bridge and (2) the "brownwater" park is just too dangerous for those who are not highly experienced boaters properly outfitted with protective clothing and paddling appropriate types of watercraft.

All that money spent for nothing! TPWD officials came up from Austin and had a big press party the night before the openings. Several media sources were there to cover the opening where Mayor Caraway and Councilman Salazar spoke in praise of the project that nobody wanted to experience, and where the city was telling people they could not go.

Those who pushed for this travesty are strangely silent about it now, but they surely made a lot of noise when some of us were raising questions and expressing concerns long before the project was ever started. Now, we got a piece of shit excuse for a whitewater park that already cost us $4.2 million and cannot be used, and that is going to cost us another million or so to redesign and re-construct - and it will STILL look like a piece of shit, which is appropriate considering where it lies - in the middle of Shit Creek!

San Marcos spent less than half as much with the same engineering company and got a gorgeous whitewater park that is more challenging for whitewater boaters, yet safe enough for recreational boaters, and they did not have to spend the additional mil or so to redesign and rebuild theirs'. Once again, the taxpayers of Dallas got screwed by our city government, and we didn't even get kissed!

Anon
Anon

There are plenty of plugs for that end of the body. I think you're just not looking at the right websites.

Harvey
Harvey

Nothing about anti-shark mesh to ward off the gators fishing the rapids?

The Derelict
The Derelict

and after the party it's the hotel lobby (of a taxpayer owned hotel)

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

If that had come from anybody but you Jim you'd write a blog post romanticizing the bums that use the CBD buildings as toilets.

Renegade
Renegade

When I'm traveling by the site in my glass bottomed, solar-powered water taxi, I will point out Jim's watery grave to the passengers, and tell them the Legend of the Trinity Toll-Road Ghost. WHO'S RIGHT BEHIND YOU!

Ben
Ben

The question should be why should a whitewater type attraction cater to the lowest common denominator of citizen? That is what the city must be shooting for.

I don't have a problem with delays or some of the changes. What bothers me is that the left and right hands of city government are totally disconnected with one another. Even on something as stupid and simple as a canoe ride in a ditch.

JimS
JimS

Downtown Rez: future ref, incontinent bums and low income young people are not the same population.

Cbs
Cbs

I'd pay for that ride...seriously.

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