Bowling Green Whitewater Initiative

The following is a brief history of the Bowling Green Whitewater Initiative according to the original Initiative’s website created by We Make Things Happen Corp (WMTH):

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the city of Bowling Green, the Greenways Commission of Bowling Green & Warren County, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities and Western Kentucky University are partners in developing a conceptual design Master Plan for a whitewater course on the Barren River at Mitch McConnell Park in downtown Bowling Green. The park is being developed as the “birthplace of the Greenbelt,” a countywide network of walking and biking pathways, trailheads and river access points. Numerous whitewater enthusiasts and paddling clubs across the region have thrown their support behind this project. As described by one of the partners, it has gathered momentum like a “snowball headed downhill”.

The USACE and its consultants – GEC, Inc. and Recreation Engineering and Planning – presented preliminary concepts at an evening workshop at the BGMU Annex on Thursday, September 22, 2005. The preliminary concepts show a series of six pools dropping 10-12 feet and stretching approximately 1,200 feet downstream of the BGMU dam near the State Street Bridge. Sixty people attended the workshop, which included an informal presentation and an extended question and answer period. The consultants came away with input from the group to prepare one final conceptual design, which will also include cost estimates. The cost estimates should be available to review by mid-winter or first of spring 2006.

Dr. Steve Spencer, a professor in the Recreation Administration Program at Western Kentucky University and liason to the Greenway Commission, suggested the idea a few years ago to Former City Commissioner and Greenways Chairman Jim Bullington, who immediately saw the potential and began building support for it. It now looks like it might become a reality. Gary Lacy, one of the foremost designers in Whitewater Parks from Boulder Colorado, in partnership with team members from GEC, an engineering firm from Baton Rouge who specialize in water resource engineering are working together with the U.S. Corps of Engineers (Louisville District) to develop concept plans, address environmental issues and determine a cost for the development.

On September 22nd 2005, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, City of Bowling Green, and the Greenways Commission of Bowling Green & Warren County introduced concept plans for a whitewater course within Mitch McConnell Park as part of a revitalization plan for downtown Bowling Green. Over 60 people were in attendance. The BG Daily News published an excellent overview, “Whitewater Park Plans Discussed At Meeting”

Partners in this initiative include: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bowling Green Municipal Utilities, Greenways Commission of Bowling Green & Warren County, City of Bowling Green, Warren County Fiscal Court, Western Kentucky University, WMTH Corporation, Numerous whitewater enthusiasts and paddling clubs across the state.


February 2006

U.S. Corps of Engineers, GEC & Recreation Engineering and Planning jointly published the Conceptual Master Plan of the Whitewater Course on the Barren River in Warren County, Kentucky.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers vouched to match half of the original $4,000,000 price tag on the Whitewater Course.


October 2008

City of Bowling Green Commissioner Brian Strow lead the Bowling Green City Commission to object to roughly $26 million in proposed bonds from the TIFF plan including funding for the Whitewater Course . Possible funding for the Whitewater Course dried up and the project was put on hold.


August 2010

Life long whitewater kayaker and mountain biker Paul Ress moved to Bowling Green for work after graduating from the University of Louisville College of Business. Motivated by the lack of local whitewater recreational opportunities Paul created the facebook group, Bowling Green Whitewater Park to resurrect support for the original whitewater initiative.


Septmember 2010

Avid climber and Bowling Green resident Clinton Lewis started the BG Boulder Project. According to Clinton’s post on the BG Boulder Project’s blog: “Over the summer I read about the Teton Boulder Project in Jackson, Wyoming, and Christian’s groundbreaking on a park that honors the climbers and mountaineers of the Grand Teton range. Next I found the Bozeman Boulders Initiative in Montana. That was the perfect model I was looking for in developing this idea to bring a similar park to Bowling Green.”


December 2010

The BG Boulder Project and the Bowling Green Whitewater Park initiative joined forces. Below is Clinton Lewis’s post on the BG Boulder Project’s blog: “I’m thrilled to say that I have been contacted by Paul, the organizer of the Whitewater Park effort, to team up and move forward in a joint effort to make the riverfront THE hub of human-powered recreation in Bowling Green! With both of us working together to promote & strengthen our projects, it will give us a unified support base to work from. Paul has an awesome facebook page with tons of info and an incredible PDF outlining several park options for the Barren River. The BGBP would compliment the whitewater park by utilizing some of the area in the Proposed Park section along the north bank of the river. Can you imagine spending the day whitewater kayaking and bouldering within a minute of each other?! I’m giddy at just the thought of it.”

January 2011

On January 19th 2011 twenty-four citizens of Bowling Green co-founded the Bowling Green Riverfront Foundation, Inc. 501(c)(3)

Click to view the: BGRF Articles of Incorporation

The Bowling Green Riverfront Foundation created the concept of the Barren River Outdoor Center. The BROC conceptual plan consists of a mountain bike trail, bicycle pump track, bouldering area, and whitewater course.

During the early phases of the BROC development the Bowling Green Chapter of the Kentucky Mountain Bike Association partnered with the BGRF to develop the Mountain Bike Trail and Bicycle Pump Track phases of the BROC.

Hensley & Throneberry CPAs and Attorney Chris Minix each donated their time and resources to help establish the BGRF.

February 2011

On February 1st 2011 the BG Daily News published an article, “Whitewater rafting on Barren River is needed” by local TV personality Outdoors Man Cory Ramsey.

On February 10th 2011 the BG Daily News published an article, “New Foundation Dreams of riverfront recreation”

On February 10th at 6:00 p.m. the BGRF held it’s first board meeting at Mariah’s Restaurant.


April 2011

On April 4th 2011 the BG Daily News published an article, “Whitewater park to be discussed in commission work session”

On April 5th 2011 BGRF President Paul Ress addressed the Bowling Green City Commission during a work session to introduce the recreation opportunities being planned for the riverfront.

On April 11th 2011 Bradley Renick the President of the Bowling Green Chapter of the Kentucky Mountain Bike Association and Paul Ress the President of the BGRF presented the conceptual BROC plan to Bowling Green Parks & Rec. The board of Bowling Green Parks & Rec unanimously voted to approve and support the conceptual BROC plan.


May 2011

On May 19th 2011 SKYe Magazine published the video, “BG Riverfront Interview”

Nat’s Outdoor Sports & the Patagonia Clothing Company awarded a $1,500 grant to the BGRF.


June 2011

On June 2nd2011 BGRF President Paul Ress met with the Warren County Rescue Department to discuss the BROC conceptual plans. WC Rescue endorsed the BROC and is excited about utilizing the whitewater course for swift water rescue training.


June 2011 to February 2012

Over this period of time the idea of creating the City of Bowling Green’s first mountain bike trail slowly began to take shape. VAN METER & Slavey, LLC donated their expertise to create a conceptual map of the trail while the BGRF raised funds and crafted an agreement between the City of Bowling Green and KyMBA.


February 2012

At 7:25PM on the evening of February 7th 2012 the Board of Commissioners of the City of Bowling Green under Municipal Order 2012-18 unanimously approved a 2 Year agreement with the Bowling Green KYMBA Chapter for the rights to build the first single track trail in the City.

Construction of the mountain bike trail began immediately. During the following few weeks KyMBA discussed several trails names.  It was decided that the trail would be named the Low Hollow trail in honor of the recently closed Sal Hollow trail at Mammoth Cave National Park and due to the low-lying topography of the area.

On February 10th 2012 the BG Daily News published a front page article, “Mountain bike path closer to reality”


March 2012

On March 12th 2012 the Courier Journal  published an article, “Hear Here Employees Help Revitalize Riverfront Area”

Nat’s Outdoor Sports & the Patagonia Clothing Company awarded a $1,500 grant to the BGRF.





May 2012

Griff’s Deli donated five Rogue Hoe trail building tools for the construction of the Low Hollow Trail.

On May 8th 2012 Nat’s Outdoor Sports and Griff’s Deli sponsored a KyMBA trail build day.


June 2012

DP Media Group created and launched this website!


February 2013

On February 3rd 2013 the BG Daily News published an article, “A New Journey”
On February 5th 2013 the BG Daily News published an article, “Whitewater rafting park proponents eyeing grant”

March 2013

On March 5th 2013 the Bowling Green Daily News  published an article, “Grant assists plan to build center along Barren River”

Nat’s Outdoor Sports & the Patagonia Clothing Company awarded a $1,500 grant to the BGRF.


Work continues with our partners at Nat’s, KyMBA, Bowling Green Parks & Rec and other interested parties to procure funding, planning and execution of the project. Stay up-to-date on our Facebook Page and email list! Just let BGRF President Clinton Lewis know you’d like to receive updates!