Drowning the Whistleblower on the Doomed Trinity River Wave

The man who warned of danger at the city's Trinity whitewater park gets sold downriver.

Who else but Dallas City Hall could take a simple thing like kayaking and turn it into snaggle-clawed sulfurous lawsuit hell? But that's what I smell ahead for the Dallas Wave, the fake whitewater thing the city has created in the Trinity River.

For two weeks I have been trying to get someone at City Hall to tell me who is responsible for the unbelievably screwed-up man-made kayaking rapids in the river. It was supposed to be a whitewater playground for kayakers.

On May 11 the city opened a paddling trail down the river to the wave, but on the same day they barred public access to the wave, because it was that dangerous. Some canoeists and kayakers said it was even capable of killing people.

Chris Gash

And then the money. The thing started out at a planned cost of $1.5 million. The city now has invested more than $4 million. The park board voted last week to spend another $76,000 to pay an engineering firm to find out what's wrong with it. Then I assume we'll have to pay some more to fix it.

So who designed it?

The Dallas Wave was meant to create turbulence or "whitewater" for the amusement of certain kayakers called play-boaters. Play-boaters are kayakers who use very short duck-billed kayaks to play around in a rapids. They don't go up and down the river. They just stay in the rapids and flip themselves upside down and stuff.

Why has Dallas spent $4 million and counting for the amusement of people in duck-billed kayaks? Sorry, you might as well ask me if God can make a rock too big for Him to roll.

I do know this. A lot of people now want to know why the thing is such a wreck and a failure. City council member Angela Hunt recently sent a memo to City Manager Mary Suhm asking, "Why aren't the original engineering, design and construction firms required to fund not only the cost of analyzing the problems they apparently caused but also fixing them?"

But here is where things begin getting very duck-billed and convoluted. I have contacted the people who were the alleged designers, a company in Boulder, Colorado, called Recreation Engineering and Planning, twice — once last April and again last week. Last week I asked REP if the thing that is in the Trinity River now is what they designed.

Gary Lacy, whose title at REP is chief engineer, told me in an email: "The design was a team approach with various civil, structural, and hydraulic designers as well as planners and landscape architects, local and out of state."

I don't know what that means. Out of what state? I called him, but he wouldn't take my call, so I emailed him back and said I didn't understand his answer. "Is this your design or not?" I asked.

No response. Radio silence.

Last April, in a conference call with the staff of the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, I asked who had designed the Dallas Wave. John Reynolds, the city's project manager for the wave, said, "It was designed by a water park consulting firm out of Boulder, Colorado."

We established we were talking about REP, headed by Gary Lacy. I asked: "That design that I'm looking at is what he drew?"

Reynolds said, "That is correct."

But at about the same time, I also interviewed Shane Sigle, the engineer at REP who did the work on the Dallas Wave. I asked Sigle why there was such a difference between the Dallas Wave, an ugly massing of concrete and wire that looks like the back end of a sewage treatment plant, and the beautiful projects I saw on REP's web page, built with boulders and rocks to look like natural rapids and waterfalls.

"You know," Sigle said, "that's a question I was asking also. That's not something that we had control over."

I said: "That wasn't your deal then. You didn't get to choose the materials."

"That's right," he said. "We did not get to choose the materials. We were just responsible for the geometry and the slopes and the width and those types of things."

Aha! When I listened again to that April interview last week, I began to get the picture and see the problem. The city hired these guys in Boulder who have a national reputation for designing superb beautiful water parks in rivers. But they didn't let them fully design our project.

The city took the math from them, the geometry. And then the city, using its own engineers or a contractor, built the thing. In the process, the finished project veered significantly from the original concept, which I assume didn't include killing people.

Now what we have is a mess that can't be used, from which the public is barred, at a cost already four times the original estimate, with the cost of litigation about to be added to the tab. And nobody is sure who gets the blame for the final outcome — the Colorado people, the city, the construction contractor, somebody else? Everybody is probably girding their loins for litigation, so nobody can afford to speak plain English when you ask them a question.

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37 comments
Lorraine McPhee
Lorraine McPhee

Is Allen giving you a kick back Schutze? Holy cow! No impartial or responsible reporting here.

mynameisURL
mynameisURL

Press Release: City of Dallas Opens Recreational Canoeing Facility Today!

City manager Mary Suhm optimistic about profitable venture for city...

pls
pls

maybe dallas wants a canoe business to go with its hotel biz...

Knix Knax
Knix Knax

What a joke. Dallas is just as corrupt as it ever was. Why is this even an issue? Only a small populace will even be using this facility. Who cares if the elite few using it die? People are starving in the world and you dumb F**ks are worried about this piece of crap recreation.

Davondazucker
Davondazucker

Well, I keep trying to post a comment about how Charles Allen increased the cost of the wave by insisting the city add bypass channels to the original design. But the Observer keeps removing it. Obviously they have an agenda and don't want the full truth out there.

TruthBeTold
TruthBeTold

Charles Allen is the cause of the city having to spend millions more. The "design changes" that helped swell the cost where changes to add the bypass channels to accommodate Charles Allen and his canoe business. When the city proposed putting in the whitewater park, Charles Allen complained that it would hurt his business. The city modified the design and added the bypass channels to placate him. So the city went to additional trouble and expense to try to accommodate him and keep him happy.

After the channels were completed, Charles Allen didn't like them. Note also that the city also provided concrete ramps above and below the park so his clients could easily portage around the park if they did not wish to paddle through it. But this was not enough for him.

So he ran to the press and started claiming that they were unsafe (which have been shown and documented to not be the case). Now he is claiming it is a waste of taxpayer money. I find it ironic that the man who caused the city to spend millions more on the whitewater park to add bypass channels to accommodate his business is now throwing the city under the bus.

TruthBeTold
TruthBeTold

Poor, poor Charles Allen. Charles Allen is the cause of the city having to spend millions more. The "design changes" that helped swell the cost where changes to add the bypass channels to accommodate Charles Allen and his canoe business. When the city proposed putting in the whitewater park, Charles Allen complained that it would hurt his business. The city modified the design and added the bypass channels to placate him. So the city went to additional trouble and expense to try to accommodate him and keep him happy.

After the channels were completed, Charles Allen didn't like them. Note also that the city also provided concrete ramps above and below the park so his clients could easily portage around the park if they did not wish to paddle through it. But this was not enough for him.

So he ran to the press and started claiming that they were unsafe (which have been shown and documented to not be the case). Now he is claiming it is a waste of taxpayer money. I find it ironic that the man who caused the city to spend millions more on the whitewater park to add bypass channels to accommodate his business is now throwing the city under the bus.

Maybe this is just karma coming back to the guy who single-handedly added millions to the cost of the project and then stabs those who tried to accommodate him in the back.

Pecos_Drifter
Pecos_Drifter

How about a "Boat at your own risk" sign.....runs about $30.00

Flipit
Flipit

I've been kayaking in the Trinity and Dallas area creeks for almost 10 years now. Never had a problem. Do any of you people actually know of anyone who has gotten sick? Have you actually been down to this wave and spent any time? Or are you just assuming things and mouthing off? That's what I thought. Just open the damn park and let us play. If it scares you, go back to the mall or catch a movie. My GAWD, if any of you would ever get out of town and go look at some other white water parks in this country, you would see how tame this one is and realize how ridiculous this whole media circus is.

So what if it is ugly? You can thank the Corps of Engineers for that. The thing works just fine. The main point of this whole project was to bring attention to the river and START the process for revitalization. START - Not finish with a polished perfect end product. Charles Allen can now put in below the feature and skip the butt ugly section between the levees. What is the issue here?

Deadly? If one has the proper gear and boat, plus paddles with reliable partners, this feature is great. If you don't know what the proper equipment is, or don't have reliable partners, go back to the mall or the theater.

Richard
Richard

Why would you get in the west fork of the river? Do you know what ft. worth, arl., and g.p. do to the river. Can you say do-do? The elm and east fork don't stink like the west fork. If you want to ride the river a good run is from 20 to 175 or 121 to nw hwy. If you realy want to have fun go to ray roberts and flot down. If you want to see how nasty people are and how little the epa realy does go on the west fork. Dallas city hall must be full of yankees. Anybody from Dallas knows how bad the river stinks at times. Somebody made some money screwing us.

Rick de
Rick de

To The City Manager, Once more you have found a way to waste tax payers money, on a wonderfulthough out plan, that you did'nt finish,for twice the cost, and then blame a man for something you and the builders can't get right. That's sad.

Cheap Old Geezer
Cheap Old Geezer

Any one dumb enough to submerge them selves in the Trinity deserves to get one of those brain eating amoebas up their nose.

Dave
Dave

This is why I moved to Collin county. Dallas government is simply out of control.

GarrettM
GarrettM

I thought the Trinity River was just a thing that you held your nose as you passed by it. I didn't know people would willingly get into that water. Sounds like Meningitis breeding ground to me

KSA
KSA

Who in their right mind wants to go hang out in west Dallas? I think it would be great if we had a nice scenic river running through our town but lets face the facts it's a crime ridden area and a dirty river. I'm all about green spaces but how about spending the money on infrastructure, not billion dollar "works of art" bridges, and maintaining the areas we have.

Marc W. McCord
Marc W. McCord

Several members of Dallas Downriver Club, all of whom are active whitewater canoeists who run far bigger water than the Dallas Wave frequently, in open boats, opposed this project more than three years ago when it was in the initial stages of consideration. One kayaker, who is a commercial instructor, falsely claimed to represent our club when he was the city's consultant on the project. His objective was a financial one - he had a vested interest in the wave being built because he wants to use it to teach others how to run whitewater and make a profit doing it - AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE.

Long before we saw any plans or drawings we raised the concern about water quality. You see, the water in segment 0805 of the Trinity, the segment where the wave sits, is rated "unsafe for contact recreation" (which means getting that water ON or IN you is hazardous to your health) by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because it contains high levels of numerous hazardous substances like PCBs, phenols, heavy metals and other toxic hazards, as well as an incredibly high E.Colo bacteria count.

We argued that the Trinity was the WRONG place to build a playground for paddlers. We were VERY public with our statements. We published comments about this project on our club website, in our club newsletter and in numerous "Letters to the Editor" of the Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star Telegram and other places. Our comments were ignored by a City Council hell bent on wasting $4.2 million to build a playground for perhaps 20-25 people while only allocating about one fourth that amount to public libraries that are used by tens of thousands of people every year.

REP has built numerous beautiful whitewater parks, including the one in San Marcos, and NONE are the ugly, wasteful piece of shit that we got in Dallas. The one in San Marcos is a work of art and only cost less than half as much as the excuse for a whitewater park that we got. REP was not allowed to build the park. The City of Dallas paid REP to design the park, and then had its own contractor, who knows absolutely NOTHING about hydraulics and waterparks, build ours. In doing so, we ended up with a disaster waiting to happen.

Federal navigation law stipulates that the waters of rivers belong to the people, and everybody has a right to navigate rivers. It is illegal to create a hazard in a river, and it is also illegal to arrest or fine anybody who portages a hazard, especially if it is a hazard YOU created in the first place. The City Attorney's Office is full of shit, and they obviously lack any intelligence in or understanding of federal navigation law. Otherwise, they would never have sent that letter to Charles Allen.

The City also failed to do a federally-required Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to determine if the project would be detrimental to the natural river and the animals, fish and plants that live there. So, the City of Dallas violated at least two federal laws in building this project to begin with, and probably more. When they are done nailing JWP's ass to the cross the FBI needs to come after EVERYBODY in City government and the Dallas Citizen's Council, starting with our idiot City Manager Mary Suhm, for approving and allowing this project to go forward without the mandated EA and EIS, and those whose names approved the project should be held criminally and civilly liable for ALL costs to remove that piece of shit and restore the river to its original condition, as well as being required to reimburse taxpayer for every penny that was wasted on this project from minute one.

Remember this project when former mayor LIEppert runs for the US Senate. If he could help screw the people of the city as mayor, then just imagine the damage he can do while making money for his close friends as a US Senator! Remember the City-owned hotel, the Trinity Toll Road Project, the Trinity River Corridor Project and every other major construction project that was brought to us by LIEppert, Suhm and their cronies. It is time to clean house. These are the very same people who secretly started the process of allowing exploration for natural gas in Dallas residential neighborhoods!

This stuff only happens for ONE reason - the vast majority of citizens are too ignorant and self-absorbed to get involved, speak out against these abuses and control our elected and appointed government. WE are the cause of these problems because WE elect our leadership, and then fail to control them! They are merely doing what all politicians do - lie to the common people and line the pockets of themselves and their friends at OUR expense!

db
db

Again, why can't we just clean up some of the trash and have a few hiking and biking trails?

Op2myst
Op2myst

City if Dallas is so incompetent!

Roadsidecouch
Roadsidecouch

Mr. Allen.It is like anything else at city hall. You got noticed, now If you want to play you have to pay. That is the Dallas way/

Ttavis Rex
Ttavis Rex

Who in their right mind would want to kayak, swim, or even be close to the Trinity River?

Ivan  Ivanov
Ivan Ivanov

On November, 1st, 2010 in the late evening at 22.42 the British parliament becomes the witness of very strange performance of lord James of a baron

Blekhitsky which essence was reduced to that he tried to inform members of chamber of lords the fact of existence of a certain strange organization

which wishes to give the huge sum of money for restoration of economy of Great Britain and which it in the performance called as "Fund X".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Slffv8EVoAA

Alpone
Alpone

It was designed by Wai Wize LLP.

TimCov
TimCov

1. He cost the bureaucrats in city hall face by speaking with you and not saying what they did is wonderful. So, Charles Allen is a target for what ever they can do to him.2. In my opinion, the best thing to do with the Dallas wave would be tear it out. Doing anything else would cost more without a good return on the investment of capital. I'm sure the kayakers will be disappointed. But, there comes a point where government can not afford to provide free recreational opportunities to every sport. The number of people using the wave just does not justify the cost.

Watching South Detroit
Watching South Detroit

Typical Dallas city government - coverup their own incompetence, coverup waste of taxpayer money, go after those who expose their waste and incompetence, make no effort to hold city employees accountable or to try to prevent things like this from happening. Mary Suhm should be a textbook case as how NOT to manage a city. The continuing stories of mismanagement to cronyism to waste to corruption to incompetence. Yet the main effort is not put into fixing these problems. The main effort goes into coverups and going after those who expose Dallas for the joke that it is.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Let’s face it one of city halls favorite activities is to drive people out of business. The city has a long history of this from Overhead Door, Woodward Paint on Ross, and the metal recyclers in south Dallas – all long established businesses. Mr. Allen is probably an attractive target especially when you yourself (the city) are at fault. Blame someone else that is the key. Obviously those in the city who have had a hand in this should be FIRED with cause. “Oh but we can’t do that-we can however throw more tax money after it because…… we all know that we can get more” says the city staff and council.

Paul
Paul

Let's see ... did JWP or WJ have anything to do with this ... Seriously, it is a sad day indeed when a govenrment entity can use all of its resources against an individual citizen who points out a potential hazard ... Instead of listening to his complaint or notice the city of dallas chose to threaten Mr. Allen. As a Dallas taxpayer, I demand to know who thought up this messed up project ... the fact that you have to portage around this "thing" is defacto evidence that this is a hazard of and and obstruction to navigation.

ab
ab

Government Bureaucracy at it's finest...

In the end no one takes blame when it's the governments fault.. besides they are spending taxpayer money... what government employee really cares if it's being spent wisely or foolishly...

All they care is that they have it to spend. And usually the only requirement to get that money is that they spent 100% of it last year!

Hopefully some of the government workers behind this are the ones that drown in it...

SteveT
SteveT

Mr. Allen should file a complaint with the City Auditor's Office of fraud/waste/abuse against whoever issued this arrest order. The Auditor is obligated to investigate based on Adminstrative Directive 2-14.

james
james

if you stand up for what you believe in, be prepared to be shot down. especially in dallas.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

I don't think the problem is that a facility for play boaters was created on the Trinity. I think the problem is (1) the installed design which doesn't have an adequate bypass, is dangerous for river users that are not in a play kayak, such as those who just want to canoe the Trinity. These were the people who traditionally used the river, and they are now either shut out or have to portage, (2) the enormous cost overrun on a project that has but a limited number of users, and (3) the fact that no one in city government will 'fess up to who actually approved the installed design and the overpayment.

Marc W. McCord
Marc W. McCord

I am fairly sure the whitewater park is in Central South Dallas, not West Dallas. It is near the Corinth Street Bridge just south of downtown. But, the crime problem would be as great, if not greater and the river is still a filthy, polluted ditch down there.

The logic of having a "signature bridge" designed by an architect in Spain and built by a company in Italy, then shipped and trucked here at enormous expense before being assembled by a bunch of people from Poland at a time when the United States needs the jobs and our economy could have used the money is THE perfect example of what is wrong with city leadership. We are being led by idiots who are obviously well enough off not to worry about the concerns of the "little people" whose tax dollars pay for those projects.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Because contractor buddies/campaign contributors don't make millions of dollars if all we do is clean up the trash and build a few hike/bike trails.

TimCov
TimCov

Because, the people who actually run the city (the Dallas Citizen's Council) like to "think big." Cleaning up the trash and making hike-bike trails isn't thinking big enough for them. They want to be able to do all of these huge projects and not spend their money to do them.

AintNoSunshine
AintNoSunshine

AMEN ON ALL COUNTS!!!!!!

These people have to go soon!!!!!!!!

I am sure Allen will sue the living shit out of City Hall for maliciously/intentionally taking his livelihood away from him, after the screwed everything up!!!

This is the absolute worst City Government in Dallas History, period.

Flipit
Flipit

I can't imagine too many people access this part of the river to begin with. It is the most ugly, remote section of the entire Trinity River Watershed (which is HUGE). I wonder what percentage of Charles Allen's trips actually go through this section? We are talking <100 feet of a 710 MILE river. That is .0000266% of the river. C'mon Charles, if this is driving you out of business, you need a better business plan!BTW, if one runs the waves river right, they are a piece of cake. You might get... splashed! (GASP!)Also, 'limited number of users' just seems to be a commonly used absurd statement. EVERYTHING ANYONE HAS EVER BUILT has a limited number of users, except for maybe 635 between Marsh and Greenville. Do you use your local skate park? Hockey rink? Do you ride DART? Been to every playground in Dallas County?

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

No, but then I don't expect the city government to subsidize my hobbies, and if the city did, I'd expect there to be a cost benefit analysis before the dollars were spent. I'm just puzzled as to why the city spent $4.5MM on something a very limited number of people will actually use, especially when as designed the facility interfers with the existing use by an equal or greater number of people. I bet we could have gotten some pretty great parks and sports fields for $4.5MM.

 
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