A proposed whitewater feature on the Yahara River in Stoughton could draw on a market of more than 400,000 paddlers and could generate millions in business spending from its use, according to an economic impact study of the concept.
Stoughton officials are planning to convert about 1,000 feet of the Yahara River into a series of pools with a whitewater park for paddlers that would bypass an existing dam. They are also exploring ways to revitalize the riverfront properties in the area.
A recent case study, completed with the help of UW-Madison, examined several whitewater parks throughout the Midwest that are comparable to what is being proposed in Stoughton. Based on 10 other whitewater parks, kayakers will spend an average of $68 per day on food, lodging, equipment and other things, according to the study.
Within a 30-minute drive of Stoughton, there are nearly 30,000 kayakers. That number increases to about 430,000 people who kayak within a 2-hour drive time area. If each one of those kayakers visited Stoughton once per year, that could generate spending of about $2 million and a little under $30 million, respectively, the study said.
“I think it really shows that if we do it right, it would be a great thing. But we have to make sure the project’s done right, and it’s an attractive place to paddle for somebody who would want to travel a distance to do it,” said Dan Glynn, the city’s parks and recreation director.