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Potential Whitewater Park Explored

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GOLD HILL, Ore. — The Rogue River roared as a group toured the rapids led by a man who has plans to make a three hundred yard stretch of the river a prime destination for kayakers around the world. The Ti’lomikh Falls section of the Rogue River is said to be one of the best places to kayak because of its flow, drop and different channels.

“Well in a sense Ti’lomikh Falls is already one of the great whitewater parks anywhere, just as naturally, the way it is,” said president of the Gold Hill Whitewater Center, Steve Kiesling.

Kiesling would like to make Ti’lomikh Falls a whitewater park by adding and removing some boulders in the river, putting in a nearby parking lot and adding a seasonal foot bridge. He’s had this vision for years and Tuesday he took a group of representatives from federal, state, and local agencies to see first-hand where he would make some changes. It’s very early in the process and no specific proposal or permits have been given. Tuesday, Kiesling brought everyone together to get input at the earliest stage. He said the river is perfect for a world-class whitewater park.

“It’s illegal to fish here because the fish are too easy to catch, it’s illegal to generate hydropower, even though that’s what ran the town for quite a long time and they’ve run out of gold. So, what is this? It’s the greatest place to play,” said Kiesling.

The park would be free to the public and would be paid for through a fundraising effort through Kiesling’s nonprofit organization. He said the economic impacts would be felt in Gold Hill — as much as seven million dollars annually. The environmental impact is yet to be seen, and being early on in the process, some organizations have some recommendations.

“Right now we’re very early in the public process of understanding what the project is. We’re outlining some of the issues the applicant might want to consider when designing the project,” said Joseph Sheahan U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Kiesling believes with a collaborative effort through agencies and local Native American representatives, his dream could become a reality and make Gold Hill a prime destination.

“Some parks cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, I think this is going to be relatively inexpensive because so much of it is already here,” said Kiesling.

The project is still in an early development stage but could develop as more permits and plans are solidified.