Adventure seekers will soon have a new place to climb, ride bikes and hike along the shores of Falls Lake. But they will have to wait longer for whitewater rafting.
Forest Ridge Park is slated to open early next year, and crews hope to begin construction soon on a welcome center, picnic shelter and restrooms. Recent rainy weather delayed the time line a bit.
“We already lost about a month getting it out of the ground,” said James Marapoti, a design and development project manager for Raleigh’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources.
The $6.2 million project sits on part of a 586-acre site in North Raleigh owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is one of the last projects funded by a $50 million parks and greenway bond approved by Raleigh voters in 2003.
The park, which will be staffed by parks and recreation employees, will feature a ropes course, playground and six miles of biking and hiking trails. The master plan calls for eventually building a lakeside center, an overnight lodge and a disc golf course, among other amenities.
The 2003 bond also included $195,000 to design a whitewater park just below the Falls Lake Dam, roughly three miles from the park site. A group of residents has been pushing for years for a whitewater feature on a 300-yard section of the Neuse River.
“When all this is in place, the area around Falls Dam is going to be Raleigh’s adventure center,” said Elizabeth Gardner, president of the nonprofit Falls Whitewater Park Committee and a meteorologist for WRAL.
Workers would add boulders and other submerged features so the river would be channeled through three rapids, creating swimming holes and standing waves. The project would make it easier for people to access the river, which sits along the Raleigh greenway.
The city is spending $100,000 for permits to build the whitewater park, but it’s unclear who would would pay for the $3.5 million project, she said.
“We are working with the city right now to come up with a funding plan,” Gardner said.
The committee has raised about $5,000 and plans to eventually launch a full-scale capital campaign effort. Members are meeting with city officials about a possible public-private partnership, Gardner said.
When it’s finished, Gardner said she hopes the park will attract Raleigh rafters who regularly drive several hours to get their whitewater fix.
“It’s going to be a real destination for people,” she said.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi