Boise promised private funding for whitewater park expansion, but city spending exceeds private dollars

Lindsay Atkinson Articles

Rolling rivers, hearty hills, and mighty mountains are some of the geographic features Idaho is known for; natural features that make the state great for outdoor adventures.

Since even the largest of Idaho municipalities are surrounded by these geographic features, cities often use natural elements in the design of their parks. For the city of Boise, one such example is the use of the Boise River for the Boise Whitewater Park.

However, this whitewater park has had a high cost for residents. The city of Boise has sunk millions of taxpayer dollars into this park, over and above the original promise.

For a little bit of context: The Boise Whitewater Park opened in June 2012, after completion of what the city calls Phase 1. The park’s first phase included construction of a diversion dam and a wave shaper, to provide remote-controlled wave patterns for surfers and kayakers. Phase 2, which is currently under construction, will add a half mile of controlled water space onto the park to provide sections of the river for different age and skill levels.

For the first phase, the city spent a total of $1,669,397 on the park. In comparison, private donations to Phase 1 totaled $2 million—a little more than a match.

During design of the second phase of the park, multiple press releases on the park’s own website stated that the only city involvement in Phase 2 would be a total of $500,000 for the design. The cost of the construction for Phase 2 was to come from private donations.

However, the city changed its tune when the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation gave a $3.5 million grant. The city indicated it would match the amount.

As it stands, the city more than matched the private grant. To date, the city has contributed $5,455,662—nearly $5 million more than it originally said it would—towards the park’s expansion. Private contributions to Phase 2 only totaled $4 million.

The Boise Whitewater Park was supposed to be primarily privately funded, but the city has been a lot more financially involved than promised. For both phases of the park, private donations have totaled $6 million, whereas the city has devoted $7.1 million. This means city taxpayers have picked up more than half the tab for this park. If a project is flaunted as a structure that will be funded by private donations, then it should be funded as such. This park was not funded by willing donors—more than half the cost was covered by tax dollars.