With a ministerial shooting of the rapids Thursday, one rough stretch for Calgary’s Harvie Passage officially flowed into much more welcomed turbulence.

Five years and $8 million later, Environment Minister Shannon Phillips donned a wet suit, helmet and life jacket to help navigate a red canoe through one of the newly-opened channels of the Bow River passage at the east end of Inglewood.

“We’re going to be safe and having fun because the fire department’s watching,” said Phillips minutes before hitting the water.

Even more excited by the opening were white water enthusiasts who’ve endured years of frustration, first through an extended, $16 million reconstruction that was swept away by the 2013 flood and then from a repeat rehabilitation.

“It’s been a long five years but it’s safer, more congenial and more user-friendly than the first version,” said Chuck Lee of the Alberta White Water Association.

“We’re committed to making this the best white water facility n Canada for an urban centre.”

Concrete-bonded boulders form channels of varying navigational difficulty, creating a series of drops and turbulence.

Lee said it provides an ideal range of challenge from novice to expert.

“Olympic athletes can train on it and get to it very quickly,” he said.

A treacherous undertow at the infamous weir took at least a dozen lives prior to 2012 and as recently as two months ago, a safety boom was set up near the passage.

A bright pink boom still extends across the river just above the passage, a reminder that rapids and potential danger still lies ahead.

“No experience on a fast river is risk-free, people must know their skill level,” said Phillips.

The channels’ opening is the culmination of five decades of uncertainty, tragedy and struggle to properly develop the bend in the Bow River that nearly became a concrete and steel “culvertized” water course in the 1960s, said …read more

Source:: Calgary Herald

      

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