Rock Our River: Forum on Eau Claire River yields great ideas

Lauren Fisher

Nearly 60 people provided insight into how our community can utilize the Eau Claire River at the Visit Eau Claire Experience Center on Oct. 16 during an open Forum.
Nearly 60 people provided insight into how our community can utilize the Eau Claire River at the Visit Eau Claire Experience Center on Oct. 16 during an open Forum.

On Wednesday, Oct. 16, Visit Eau Claire and the City of Altoona hosted Paddle On, a community forum to discuss the opportunities presented by the Eau Claire River – specifically the portion between Altoona’s River Prairie and Eau Claire’s Phoenix Park. About 60 people attended the event, which covered topics ranging from water safety to infrastructure and the ways river communities near and abroad utilize their waters. The event was attended by City Administrator for Altoona Mike Golat, the Eau Claire Director of Tourism Linda John, Professor of geography Sean Hartnett, President of Pure Water Paddlers Tim Wile, Recreation Specialist for UW-Stout Houston Taylor, and Deputy Fire Chief for Eau Claire Allyn Bertrang. We won’t bore you with the details – here are some of the great ideas suggested by members of the Chippewa Valley Community:

Enterprise

The Eau Claire River (and the Chippewa!) present the opportunity for local entrepreneurs to set up shop as river tour guides, providing safe, instructed access for visitors and residents of all skill levels.

Invest in Safety + Awareness

Attendees had a wealth of ideas for improving river awareness and water safety in the Eau Claire area.  Among which were...

  • Personal Floatation Device sharing programs would increase awareness of the need to wear proper safety gear when enjoying the Eau Claire River, and give paddlers a last chance to grab a life vest before hitting the water.
  • Introducing water safety courses and promoting swimming lessons in public education seem like no-brainers to some Eau Claire paddlers.
  • Placing signs and markers along the Eau Claire River starting at the River Prairie boat launch will ensure paddlers know what they’re getting into.  Such notices would indicate the water classification and when beginner paddlers might want to pull out.  The initial signage at the launch is in the works, according to Mike Golat.

Get Together

Attendees had all sorts of ideas for water-centric events

  • Races
  • Bass fishing competitions
  • Paddle to work day
  • Altoona-Eau Claire River festival
  • River Clean-Up Paddles

Improve Water Clarity

Citing sometimes scummy waters, former Wisconsin Poet Laureate Max Garland, among others, emphasized the need for investing in our water quality.  Eau Claire does, after all, mean “Clear Waters.”

Boyd Park Pull-Out

There’s a spot to get a kayak or canoe out of the water at Boyd Park, but it’s not particularly well-known or well-utilized.  Increasing the awareness of this option (and even making some investments in it) can help beginner paddlers take on the smooth-sailing part of the river and duck out before things get exciting at the Dewey Street bridge.

Other 

Other ideas included removing strainers from the portion of the river between the Dewey Street Bridge, investing in monitoring of water levels and river conditions, and even installing a man-made whitewater course on the river.


Have questions? Want to get involved with the effort to use the Eau Claire River to make Altoona and Eau Claire the paddling destination it has the potential to be? Contact info@visiteauclaire.com to learn more or get on the Paddle On mailing list!