No Paddling Allowed on Trinity River Paddling Trail. Which, Come to Think of It, Is So Dallas.

Thank goodness. Finally reached Judy Schmidt, marketing director for the city's Trinity River Corridor Project, to ask about tomorrow's grand opening of the Trinity River Paddling Trail. I had been trying to reach her since last week to ask if she was going to warn people they might be killed.

But the city of Dallas will do even better than that! First rule of the road for tomorrow's grand opening of the Trinity River Paddling Trail: No paddling allowed.

That way, nobody gets killed.

"There will not be any boats launched, because the river is closed from the Sylvan boat launch to the Loop 12 boat launch due to the downstream construction at the Dallas Wave and the Santa Fe Trestle Hike and Bike Trail," Schmidt just told me in an email.

It's good they're being cautious. Blaming it on construction is utterly absurd, of course. You could paddle all the way from the Sylvan boat launch, which is upstream from downtown, several miles downriver to the city's "Wave" structure at Corinth below downtown, and you would never pass a bit of construction.

But the city has other concerns, which I pointed out in a column in this week's newspaper and an item here on Unfair Park. Among them: The company that designed the city's new Dallas Wave whitewater feature on the Trinity River has informed the city it needs to rebuild it. Why? They say it needs to be more "user-friendly" for casual paddlers. Charles Allen, who is the reigning authority on family canoe trips on the Trinity, says the thing the city has built on the river near the Corinth bridge south of downtown is so dangerous he's afraid to let his clients get anywhere near it.

Tomorrow's opening of the Trinity River Paddling Trail is part of a statewide unveiling by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department -- seven new canoe and kayak trails all over Texas. This one has been long-awaited by lovers of the Trinity River, because of the stamp of approval it gives to the benighted Trinity through Dallas.

But between the time the notion of a state-sponsored paddling trail on the Trinity was conceived and tomorrow's opening, the city built its weird so-called whitewater feature. Readers have been posting comments both to my column and the blog item asking what the hell happened to the whitewater deal between the time it was proposed and the actual building of it.

Good question. Take a look at the original concept -- all boulders and grassy banks - and the thing they actually built, which looks like a damn dam.

Wait. It is a damn dam! Damn!

If you look at those construction photos, you may be able to pick out a narrow chute on one side constructed entirely of concrete and rock. That's what wound up being the so-called canoe bypass. But with water roaring through there, it's more like canoeing inside a Cuisinart.

Allen said last week he's convinced few family canoers could make it through there without dumping the kids into the drink in a great deal of turbulence in some very scarily polluted water.

The city's public invitation to the trail apparently is based on an early design, long since abandoned, that included a safe bypass for canoes. The city's web page still tells canoers they can expect a "calm bypass channel with landscaped embankments and kayakers at play." But that's just patently false. They can expect no such thing. They can expect to get their asses whipped by that Cuisinart is what they can expect.

Last week I asked Shane Sigle of Recreation Engineering and Planning in Boulder, Colorado, why the thing the city wound up building looks so little like his company's other projects around the country, which are very natural in appearance, built with boulders and river rocks.

"You know, that's a question I was asking also," Sigle said. He told me his firm had no control over the materials used in construction. "That's not something we had control over. We did not get to choose the materials. We were just responsible for the geometry and the flow and the width and those types of issues."

Oh, well. Anyway, the situation for now is that there will be no paddling allowed on the Trinity River Paddling Trail for the foreseeable future until the whitewater feature gets rebuilt. Nobody knows how long that will take.

Of all of the wonderful new paddling trails TPWD has opened in the last several years, ours here in Dallas will be truly unique -- the only one in Texas where no paddling is allowed.The great Dallas Trinity River project marches on!

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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