Westside Eagle-Observer

Siloam Springs approves restoring stream bank section at kayak park

- MARC HAYOT NWA Democrat-Gazette Marc Hayot can be reached by email at mhayot@nwaonline.com.

SILOAM SPRINGS — The Siloam Springs Kayak Park attracts a lot of paddlers, which contribute­s to stream bank erosion, according to a report from the Illinois River Watershed Protection group.

City directors unanimousl­y approved a landowner agreement to restore the stream bank on a section of the river at their meeting on Aug. 16.

Heavy foot traffic has led to the loss of ground throughout the area, meaning there is nothing to hold the soil together around the large tree roots, according to the report. Subsequent floods have eroded away much of the soil along the degraded stream banks, leaving most of the trees in the riparian area with damaged and exposed root systems, the report states.

If trees begin to fail, the voids left by the root balls would become nick points for future erosion, which may cause a domino effect, the report says. If the trees go, the park will become a much hotter and less pleasant place.

The absence of trees also could mean the city may have to construct significan­tly more expensive stone repavement­s to protect park infrastruc­ture, the report states. Protecting the trees is the key to preserving the character of the park and delaying more expensive solutions, according to the report.

The watershed group plans to contract with the Watershed Conservati­on Resource Center to develop a riparian restoratio­n plan for two areas in the park, the report states.

Since the proposed restoratio­n area is within the bank-full channel, large flood events can damage constructi­on, resulting in the need for repairs, the report states. The watershed group recommends the city construct a fence around the restoratio­n area concurrent­ly with other fence constructi­on elsewhere in the kayak park, the report states.

Director Brad Burns agreed the city will still have to control access to the area because there can’t be a lot of foot traffic.

“Even after we make this investment, there are things that I believe we need to do as a city,” Burns said.

He recommende­d moving the picnic tables and trash containers to the flat field to the west of the river and charging $1 per car for parking.

Burns said the WOKA Whitewater Park plans to charge $10 per car when it opens. The 30-acre whitewater park being built on the Oklahoma side of the Illinois River near Watts will host kayaking, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, tubing and rafting, according to a news release.

Officials with Siloam Springs and the Grand River Dam Authority in Oklahoma announced the park in October 2020.

Director David Allen said he was the mayor who signed the Siloam Springs kayak park into being and it is not even 10 years old.

“If you don’t do something now, it won’t last another 10 years,” Allen said.

Don Clark, community developmen­t director, agreed the kayak park is being loved to death. For most of the year, the kayak park acts as a kayak park, but for 120 days it’s also a popular swimming hole, and the city has to find a way to best manage that and protect the property, Clark said.

The city is not dealing with the same clientele at the kayak park during those 120 days, he said. The city put out trash containers because it has been taking staff six hours on average to haul out all of the trash from the weekend, Clark said.

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