Under an agreement yet to be signed between the city of Columbus and Uptown Columbus Inc., Uptown would manage the 2.5-mile stretch of the Chattahoochee River the will soon become a whitewater rafting venue.
"What we're asking is basically to have control of the access points from North Highland down to the Trade Center," Uptown Columbus President and CEO Richard Bishop told Columbus Councilors Tuesday. "That will allow us the right to control commercial outfitters as they get into the water."
Uptown would oversee the official access points around the North Highland dam and the landing near the Columbus Convention & Trade Center and would designate which outfitters would be allowed to do business at those points. The outfitters would pay the city 3.5 percent of all gross receipts, except for merchandise sales.
While the outfitters would charge for leading rafting trips or for renting equipment, access to the river for those providing their own equipment will be free of charge, according to Bishop.
Under the agreement, Uptown would assume all liability for personal injury, property damage or death related to the river park and will require any outfitter doing business in the park to carry at least $1 million in liability insurance.
The agreement also calls for Uptown to coordinate with police, fire and rescue operations and to handle clean-up and event planning for the park.
City Manager Isaiah Hugley and Bishop presented the memorandum of understanding to Columbus Council on Tuesday and plan to bring it back to council Aug. 28, possibly for approval. Meanwhile, Uptown is negotiating a similar memorandum of understanding with Phenix City, which will also have access points and a landing on the Alabama side.
The construction project creating the whitewater runs is proceeding on schedule, Bishop said. Plans call for the Eagle & Phenix dam section of the project to be completed by December and the subsequent removal of the City Mills dam upriver to happen in January.
Construction at the access and take-out points is scheduled to be complete by the spring of 2013 and the entire project is set to be finished by the summer, Bishop said.
The city is planning to build a foot bridge from the RiverWalk out to the island closest to the Georgia side to create a viewing plaza. That site would give an excellent view of a standing wave created by a wave shaper, an underwater concrete contraption patented by the McLaughlin Whitewater Design Group, which designed the Chattahoochee course.
"We hope we'll be able to tune the wave shaper to where we'll have a consistent wave so we can host major events, even world-class events," Bishop said.
Columbus Councilor Judy Thomas said she was recently watching the kayaking competition in the London Olympics and realized that such competitions would soon be taking place in Columbus.
"It was quite an exciting thought," Thomas said.