Whitewater Park Plans Flow
Morgantown Dominion Post
26 November 2016
By Katherine Hensley
Morgantown may be the future home of a whitewater park, but the
project hinges on plans for a proposed hydroelectric power plant.
John Lichter, organizer of the Morgantown Whitewater Park,
believes the project would help the community advance.
“The goal is really to change the image of West Virginia,” Lichter
said. “It’s really more of an economic development project than it
is a park that would just be for locals.”
The idea is still in the planning stage, but Lichter said the
location was already selected. The park would be built near the
Morgantown Lock and Dam and end at the Waterfront Jeep dealership.
“It would actually be under the rail trail, and it would run
beside the rail trail and the highway,” Lichter said.
The original plan was to put the park right next to the rail trail
in the river, but individuals expressed concern about disrupting
the trail, according to Lichter.
“The current concept would actually enhance the trail,” Lichter
There are still concerned citizens, like Mary Wimmer, who want to
make sure the area remains undisturbed.
Wimmer, a member of Morgantown Area Paddlers, is familiar with the
Morgantown Whitewater Park’s plan and does not want to see the
trail negatively affected. She said the project really needs to be
evaluated for the appropriateness of the river before it becomes a
The project also needs a designer. There are currently three
contenders for the position, according to Lichter.
The potential designers are Scott Shipley from S2O Design, John
Anderson from McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group and Gary Lacey
from Recreation Engineering & Planning.
“We are hesitant at this point to pick a designer because they
each have their own preferences and strengths, and we want to try
to keep it pure for right now and decide what Morgantown wants,”
The next step for the park is to scope the size of the project and
create a strategy, according to Lichter. But, before this can
happen, those involved with the Morgantown Whitewater Park have to
wait to see what happens with another group interested in the same
Rye Development, a company that develops hydropower on existing
dams, is actively pursuing the creation of hydroelectric power by
building power plants on several dams along the Monongahela River,
including the Morgantown Lock and Dam. The company is seeking
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) licenses for the
The creation of a hydroelectric plant would likely prevent the
Morgantown Whitewater Park, according to Lichter. “We are not sure
exactly how they would build it, but we know that we would likely
have to compete for water,” he said.
The funding stage of the park’s development likely will not happen
until the organizers know whether or not Rye Development will be
granted access to the Morgantown Lock and Dam. The support of the
entire community will be needed if the project does reach the
funding phase, according to Lichter.
“It would be very expensive, and it would require virtually
unanimous support from the community and funding at many levels,”