Schutze

City Dawdling Leaves Trinity Canoeists Up Shit Creek

This is for the paddlers. Not for me. No more ranting by me, no more calling people stupid. Even if they are. We are all on our knees here, pleading. All around me are paddlers — canoe paddlers, kayak paddlers. We're pilgrims, walking on our knees to City Hall with canoe paddles in one hand, the other upraised in supplication.

We are begging, dear, dear, beloved and beautiful city staff persons: Please, will you please just do something about the mess you've made of our river with your so-called "white-water feature" on the Trinity River just below Corinth Street in southern Dallas.

You can't just leave it like that, wrecked and useless, like a dead body in the lobby. It's inhuman somehow — a kind of atrocity that just gets worse the longer it sits there.

A year ago I reported here that the $4 million fake rapids that the city built in the Trinity was a disaster. Somehow they got the design wrong. Way wrong. Instead of a fun water park, the thing they built turned out to be more like a giant wood-chipper for canoes.

It was the Dallas canoe and kayak In-Sink-Erator, capable of gobbling up entire families and their big aluminum canoes in one bite, with nary a floating Cub Scouts cap left behind to mark the spot. It was awful. Terrifying. A nightmare.

The day they held the dedication ceremony, the city closed the white-water feature to boaters — a very good idea at the time. But there was also much talk of modifying it somehow to reduce its propensity for devouring families.

In the year that has passed, however, the city has done absolutely nothing to fix it. They haven't touched it. Instead, the city has attempted to wall off that entire portion of the river like a nuclear waste spill.

Charles Allen of Trinity River Expeditions, a commercial canoe outfitter, told me again last week that he has been unable to get the city to unlock the gate to the parking lot that provides access to the river at that point. They won't let him within a quarter mile of the river there.

Allen doesn't want to launch families in canoes to ship them through the In-Sink-Erator. Unlike some people, he's not an idiot ... I mean misguided. He wants to put canoes in the river downstream from the In-Sink-Erator where they won't be devoured. But he needs to be able to drive down to the river with his canoes to put them in below the In-Sink-Erator. Not only will the city not let him in, they have threatened him with arrest.

In the past when I asked the city about it, they cited a construction project on a city walking trail nearby. I went down there and looked. Bullshit. I'm sorry. I meant, poppycock! The construction project was way the hell and gone from where Allen would have been launching canoes. And anyway, that project was completed months ago as far as any real heavy construction activity is concerned. But he still can't get in.

I spoke last week with Eric Neilsen of the Dallas Downriver Club, and he told me the city had barred his organization from even going down to the white-water site to test the water for contaminants. The state has always rated water in the river at that point unsafe for human contact. Neilsen's outfit wants to find out how unsafe.

"They said because of the construction site we had to have hard hats and vests and all this bullshit just to go down there," Neilsen told me. When his group agreed, the city found other forms of authorization they needed to apply for. He told me last week the group technically now possesses all of the authorizations the city has required but still hasn't been able to get in to do the testing without threat of arrest.

And what about this question? Why would you arrest a guy for testing the water? Why would you arrest somebody else for launching canoes? Are you kidding? People want to float down the river at that point through the Great Trinity Forest so they can go bird-watching and stuff. And you're telling me the city's going to sic the gendarmes on them? That's just plain ... it's totally ... I don't even know what to call it.

No, wait. Wait. I promised the paddlers when I spoke to them last week that I would not go off on a rant and start alienating people. And I never meant to alienate anybody. I always assumed if somebody was stupid and you helped them understand that they were stupid, they'd be grateful and ask you to lunch. I admit it's never worked out that way. So maybe the paddlers have a point.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

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