ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke is already a top destination for outdoor sports. Now, it may become even more attractive. An in-river paddle sports run could be coming to Roanoke’s Wasena Park.

The paddle sports course would create a series of rapids and waves adjacent to the Roanoke River in the park. Other river challenges would be added.

“Being that we’re working in a waterway, you know, we need to take a very thoughtful and mindful approach to this and make sure that we’re taking in consideration all the impacts associated with that,” said Roanoke Parks and Recreation Director Michael Clark.

Though it flows through a heavily populated area, the Roanoke River in Wasena Park is scenic and resembles a forest or mountain stream. That gives project designers a lot to work with.

“We want to enhance the natural beauty of the Roanoke River and the recreational opportunity that we have here,” Clark said.

The course would be designed for use by paddlers with varying levels of experience.

“I’m already out here a lot,” said Bryce Cobbs as he walked along the Roanoke River Greenway. “If it’s that close, I might be able to stop by and try it out.”

Project proponents hope the course attracts new people to the sport, but experienced kayakers would benefit, too.

One of those experienced kayakers, Rhonda Morgan, agrees. She says a challenging paddle sports course would give her the chance to work on her skills in a controlled environment.

“Well, I think it would be fun, even just to run the different courses,” Morgan said. “But yeah, to learn some new skills in a little more controlled area, and build the confidence to go to bigger water is pretty exciting to me.”

Planners think the paddle sports course could boost the local economy, making the city an attractive destination for paddle sports enthusiasts.

Funding for the project has been approved and comes from Federal COVID-19 relief funds. The total bill for the course is expected to be $2 million. Under the rules for using the money, construction would have to begin by at least 2024, and the project would need to be completed by 2026.