An in-stream recreation park offering whitewater rafting is among the possibilities proposed for Columbus’ riverfront.

Trails, benches and nature areas, for example, were also raised as possibilities — ideas from among the 50-plus people who attended a public workshop Wednesday at Columbus City Hall about what they would like to see along the river between the Second Street and Third Street bridges.

The project would be designed by Hitchcock Design Group, Naperville, Illinois, which will consider all of the ideas as it develops a preferred riverfront concept for the city by summer.

Scott Shipley, president of S2o Design in Lyons, Colorado, said his firm has developed more than 30 in-stream recreation parks that feature rafting and kayaking. The firm developed the Lee Valley White Water Center in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics, for example.

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The company, which subcontracts with Hitchcock Design Group, is among the entities working on the riverfront project.

Whitewater parks, which have been developed in Vail and Breckenridge, Colorado, resulted in an economic benefit of more than $1 million annually for each city, Shipley said. In Reno, Nevada, the economic impact has been more than $35 million, Shipley said.

Developing an in-stream recreation park brings people of all ages together, whether it’s for kayaking or dipping their feet in the water, he said.

“We can create some of those experiences here in your community,” he said.

During the workshop, people were asked to describe in one word the Columbus riverfront in its current condition.

Among the responses were “dangerous,” “dirty,” “E. coli” and “inaccessible.”

Attendees were then divided into small groups, where they were asked to come up with one idea they would like to see considered and write it on an index card. An arboretum, built-in benches, recreation for children and activities targeting different age groups were suggested.

Nila Howard of Columbus, who came to the workshop with her husband, Maurice, said she would like to see nature areas, benches and incorporation of Columbus’ history showcased along the riverfront. However, safety remains a top priority for the couple, who have eight grandchildren.

“It has a lot of potential,” she said. “The river needs to be safe for children to participate in some of the river activities.”

Grant Hale, who lives in Columbus with his wife, Amy, and their two daughters, said he visits the riverfront at least once a week during the summer. Hale said making the riverfront more accessible and physically appealing is something he would like to see.

Hale would like a trail extended to pass through the Upland Columbus Pump House property to connect to Haw Creek to provide more recreational opportunities such as biking.

“I care about where I live, even though I’m new here,” Hale said. “Why not try to make it better?”

Columbus Redevelopment Director Heather Pope said the city is focusing on making Columbus an attractive community.

“When we look at the river in three to five years, what we’re doing tonight will shape that,” she said.

Hitchcock Design Group is collaborating with civil engineering firm Strand Associates and Christopher B. Burke Engineering, both in Columbus, in addition to working with S2o Design, said Richard Hitchcock, president of Hitchcock Design Group.

The company is trying to learn as much as it can about Columbus, its resources and to identify key stakeholders when developing a plan, Hitchock said. That information, in addition to public feedback, will ultimately help determine what is sustainable in the long run, he said.

Share your ideas in online survey

An online survey regarding the Columbus riverfront can be filled out at www.surveymonkey.com/r/RVFRJJJ. The survey will remain open for about a week.

Columbus riverfront project timeline

Now that a public idea-generation workshop has been completed, here are next steps for the Columbus riverfront project.

Alternative riverfront concepts

June: Preferred riverfront concept

July: Preliminary implementation memo

Public open house, presentation to Columbus Redevelopment Commission to be determined

Riverfront concept plan

September: Final riverfront concept report

Public presentation to be determined

Source: Columbus Riverfront website, columbusriverfront.org

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com