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Trinity River Project's Standing Wave: Great, Now City Hall's Trying to Kill Us

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The city of Dallas sent out a lovely little notice earlier this week inviting people of the canoe paddling ilk -- which would be me -- to attend the opening of the Dallas Trinity Paddling Trail, a canoe "path" on the Trinity River, established as part of a statewide system of canoe trails.

The invitation describes the 10-mile canoe trail as passing "under the beautiful new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge designed by world renowned Spanish architect and engineer, Santiago Calatrava; through the new Dallas Wave whitewater area or the calm bypass channel with landscaped embankments and kayakers at play; and into the 6,000 acres of the Great Trinity Forest."

That's all well and good and certainly presents a picture that paddlologists like myself would find appealing, but I do have a caveat. I've been working on a story about the Standing Wave thing, which appears in the paper version of Unfair Park. From what I have been able to glean, if you and your children take the city's sweet advice and steer your canoe through the "calm bypass channel with landscaped embankments and kayakers at play," some or all of you may die.

As in: Croak. Drown. Expire. No walkie-talkie no more.

The first big problem is that there is no calm bypass channel with landscaped embankments. There are two concrete chutes that form what hydraulic engineers call a "hydraulic jet" at the bottom.

Canoe outfitter Charles Allen tells me the turbulence in the hydraulic jet area is so great that the average canoer with a boatload of family members pretty much does not stand a chance of getting through without capsizing. Once out of the boat, you and your family will find yourselves flailing through a kind of hydraulic Cuisinart.

The guy who tested the bypass for the city told them to rebuild it. Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Willis Winters told me the city is trying to get a price from the contractor for rebuilding it.

That tells me they know it's unsafe. And yet here is this invitation from the city telling people to come on down and try it.

I tried to reach Judy Schmidt, the marketing director for the river (do we know we have a problem when a river needs a marketing director?), but I have received radio silence so far.

Shelly Plante in Austin, director of the paddling trails program statewide for the Texas Department of Parks and Recreation, told me this week she was trying to get the same answers from the city I was before the scheduled opening of the paddling trail May 10.

Plante said she had called the city "to ask them point blank what the deal is with the wave. I keep hearing from other people but not from them.

"That's not a conspiracy or anything. I just think there has been a breakdown in communication. I am asking them exactly these questions. Is this going to be safe?"

So the beat goes on: Will the city of Dallas some day, one day, one way or another get just one little thing right about the Trinity River project?

But go ahead and take a chance if you want. Especially if you have extra kids.

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