A few dozen community members huddled beneath a cluster of awnings next to the Clark Fork River in Caras Park last Thursday to view the first conceptual drawings of Missoula's second artificial whitewater feature, the Max Wave.
Committee reps from the nonprofit Max Wave talked over the details of three alternative designs for the proposed feature, each design more intricate and costly than the last. The committee last year set its sights on the Flynn-Lowney diversion weir across from the Osprey Stadium as the desired spot for the wave. A fourth placard depicted the committee's plan for a public park on the Clark Fork's north bank.
That fourth rendering perhaps best exhibits how the Max Wave—named for Max Lentz, a Hellgate High School student who died in a kayaking accident in 2007—fits into the patchwork of riverside development downstream of downtown. Chris Behan of the Missoula Redevelopment Agency sees the entire project as a good thing, but the inclusion of a new two-block riverside trail in the nonprofit's Island Park Master Plan is one of the aspects he emphasizes. "It's a link," Behan says, referring to the proposed pathway linking the California Street pedestrian bridge to West Broadway and Scott Street. "It's its own incentive to really get the whole thing put together. And I think you'll start to see that happen in the next year or so."
The park proposal promises to complete a circuit of riverfront trail the city has been working to enhance. Earlier this year MRA installed a bridge connecting the south side of the California Street bridge to Silver Park.
Behan isn't sure whether the Max Wave will spark business activity on West Broadway. But he strongly believes that the greater scope of the Max Wave—new linkages, easier river access, and recreation opportunities—will bolster a portion of Missoula long targeted for improvement. "It will open the doors for more people to see and be near and touch their river," he says.