Nothing, it seems, can stand between kayakers and memorials. A recent change in land use license exemptions that slapped a hefty price tag on Brennan’s Wave hasn’t washed out hopes of a new wave feature at Jacob’s Island.
Those involved in the project have dubbed the new wave “The Max” in memory of Max Lentz, a 17-year-old Missoula native who died kayaking the Gauley River in West Virginia in October 2007. Meetings concerning a memorial involved Lentz’s parents, his friends and the Brennan’s Wave Organization (BWO).
Trent Baker of the BWO says the project is still just “a concept in the minds of a couple people.” The group has yet to consult the Missoula Irrigation District, but is resoundingly optimistic about the project’s potential.
“The idea of doing something with that stretch of river has been around for a long time,” says Spencer Bradford, a veteran kayaker and president of the Missoula Whitewater Association.
Bradford says existing diversions at Jacob’s Island require constant maintenance and present a hazard to Clark Fork floaters. Renovations could improve fish passage while providing recreational opportunities. Still, he expects criticism like that experienced with Brennan’s Wave.
“You’re only trying to do something that will create an asset in terms of health, wellbeing,” Bradford says. “But there’s always someone who comes out of the woodwork who seems to think it’s a bad idea.”
Money could prove a considerable hurdle. The Missoula Redevelopment Agency (MRA) funded much of the Brennan’s Wave project, says director Ellen Buchanan. Jacob’s Island is outside the MRA’s jurisdiction, making similar funding for a project there impossible.
For now, gaining support for the project remains first priority.
“We have to get everybody on board before we can be sure when it’s going to happen,” says Justin Ryan.
Ryan, 20, remembers Lentz as a fellow kayaker who loved sharing quiet stretches of river with close friends. The two took up kayaking at about the same time. Ryan got involved at the project’s inception, wanting to honor a “good friend.”
“What drives me most is that,” Ryan says.