Monday, July 03, 2006

Artificial whitewater on the Catawba has impact on the Nantahala

The impact of the US National Whitewater Center near Charlotte will have an impact on the NC mountains. The center won't be diverting any water flow from mountain streams, or for that matter the Catawba River, but it will affect the population demographics in the NC high country. Over the years, many world-class whitewater athletes have moved into Western NC in order to train with the Nantahala Racing Club (NRC), one of the top whitewater training groups in the country. However, many of these athletes are relocating to Charlotte to train at USNWC.

While the Charlotte facility will reduce the population of world-class athletes, the NRC president believes it will have an overall positive impact on whitewater sports in the mountains:

NRC president Steve Zarnowski of Asheville said the Charlotte center should make the local paddling program stronger.

“We see Charlotte as being a better place for our athletes,” Zarnowski said. “It gives them an opportunity to work, go to school and train in the same area. It’s difficult for them to do that here.”

The center hoped to open last month, but gaining roadway rights to the center created a delay in the opening. It does plan to open this summer though. The facility will be the world's largest artificial whitewater course, but will not serve solely as a training site. It will be open to the public and offer a wide-range of outdoor activities, including whitewater raft trips. I've always loved NC's variety of outdoor activities and the facility should enhance the state's image as an outdoor mecca.


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