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An observer watches a kayaker from the banks of the Ogden Kayak Park on April 30, 2016. Flooding in 2011 and recovery efforts of a drowned toddler in 2012 seriously degraded the park's water features and banks. Boaters want the city to start restoration efforts.

OGDEN — The Ogden Kayak Park has sunk into disrepair over the past four years, and local boaters’ frustration is rising.

The park, near Exchange Road and 24th Street, first took a hit during 2011’s spring flooding. Then in April 2012, 4-year-old Corbin Anderson tragically fell and drowned at the site. Crews working to recover the boy’s body brought in heavy equipment, digging up rocks and chewing up banks to re-channel the river.

Since then, the kayak park hasn’t been restored. Today, surfing holes are gone. Banks are eroding. Trees and debris are piling up.

“We’re not getting answers from anyone on what’s going to happen,” said kayaker David Wolfgram. “And because it’s fallen into disrepair, it’s becoming more blighted.”

He noted a transient camp across the Exchange Road bridge as an example. He said kayakers are constantly picking up garbage at the park, too.

“And that’s where people want to go boat?” he said. “But we love the river. We want to see it come back — we’re not going to turn our backs on it.”

The city first built the kayak park in 2000 with the help of local kayakers, according to the Ogden City website. The site also notes the park “really drew attention to the area as a kayaking destination.”

The city made several improvements at the park from 2002 to 2008, adding more play holes, a tiered amphitheater-style rock bank, a picnic bowery and restrooms. But Ogden City has not updated its website to note the deteriorated status of the kayak park.

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This photo of the Ogden Kayak Park, taken in 2008, shows the parks former amphitheater-style bank, which provided safe access for swimmers. Flooding in 2011 and recovery efforts during a 2012 degraded the park, which has yet to be restored.

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Boaters float in the Ogden Kayak Park on April 30, 2016. In 2012, recovery teams diverted the Weber River after a toddler tumbled into the river and drowned at the Ogden Kayak Park. The bypass channel is still present at the park, which reduces flows. But city officials say it helps reduce further erosion until funding is secured to restore the park.

“The city created this,” said Sam Hood, who has kayaked at the park for the past five years. “When they do something like that and continue to advertise it as part of their trail network … it’s a reflection on the city, when we have something like this and it’s fallen into disrepair.”

Perry Huffaker, director of Ogden Public Ways and Parks, said he understands kayakers’ disgruntlement — but it all boils down to funding.

“We got a cost estimated to put the park together. It’s several million dollars,” he said. “It needs to be done right, it needs to be done correctly. But we haven’t received the money we need to do it correctly.”

Huffaker is aware the diversion channel is still causing problems at the park. It decreases the volume of water running over kayak play features. But it also keeps the riverbanks from eroding further, he said.

Beyond that, the city has sought grants to rebuild the kayak park and other parts of the Weber River damaged by the 2011 flooding.

Huffaker said the city has tried to get RAMP funding from Weber County. They also tried to get a multi-million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development late last year that would have funded kayak park improvements.

“We’ve been unsuccessful,” Huffaker said. “That doesn’t mean we aren’t going to continue trying.”

Kayakers know rebuilding the park is expensive. Some would like to see work at least done in phases.

“What can we do now that doesn’t cost a lot of money? Well, we can stabilize the bank so it looks nice and it’s not dangerous,” Wolfgram said.

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A kayaker paddles by an eroding bank at the Ogden Kayak Park on April 30, 2016. Flooding in 2011 and recovery efforts of a drowned toddler in 2012 seriously degraded the park's water features and banks. Boaters want the city to start restoration efforts, but the city says it doesn't have the funds.

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Debris, apparently from a transient camp, is visible near the Ogden Kayak Park on April 30, 2016.

The kayak park is along a bike path, and cyclists often stop to observe the river and swim. Wolfgram said the snagged branches and submerged rocks near the back pose safety hazards.

“It’s dangerous to get caught up in wood. We call it a sieve,” he said. “You get in there, the water is powerful. It’s unsafe to have people climbing on these rocks. It’s just not good.”

But Huffaker said repairing the kayak park one project at a time isn’t realistic.

“The amount of work that has to happen — the structures under water need to be completely removed. It’s not a little bit at a time,” he said. “We can look at stabilizing banks downstream, but until we deal with the initial problem, we’re wasting money and resources.”

Huffaker also said people shouldn’t be worried about visiting the park.

“I was down there at low water and down there at this last spring runoff,” he said. “I don’t believe there are safety issues.”

Wolfgram and a few other Ogden kayakers said they’re working to create a nonprofit citizens’ group to help raise money for river improvements.

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Kayakers surf a popular feature at the Ogden Kayak Park in 2010. Flooding in 2011 and recovery efforts after a young boy drowned in 2012 degraded the park's banks and play holes. It hasn't been restored in the years since.

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A boater surfs near the same feature, now washed out by past flooding, on April 30, 2016.

“It’s not just for kayakers,” Wolfgram said. “We want to call it Weber Waterways, and we want to focus on restoring and improving the Ogden and Weber rivers.”

He also wants the group to give a voice to the river-running community. Ogden kayakers, he said, often aren’t consulted when the city makes decisions about the river.

“(They) are ignorant of what needs to be done, and they haven’t appropriated the right resources in the right places — they aren’t getting the biggest bang for our buck,” Wolfgram said. “Maybe that’s our fault for not standing up and voicing things sooner.”

But Huffaker disagrees that the city doesn’t pay attention to the kayaking community. The parks department worked with kayakers to secure RAMP funding over a decade ago and build the park in the first place, he said. City officials also work to release water from Pineview Reservoir to help with river-running events, except in drought years.

“I’d say we have historically bent over backwards to assist kayakers,” Huffaker said. “We really want to help everyone we can to enjoy what we have. Our natural resources here are unmatched in the state.”

Contact Reporter Leia Larsen at 801-625-4289 or llarsen@standard.net. Follow her on Facebook.com/leiaoutside or on Twitter @LeiaLarsen.

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