Carrie Rengers

City’s RFP for river ideas closed; so what happened?

The city’s request for proposals to activate the Arkansas River did not get the response that Troy Houtman, director of the Park and Recreation Department, wanted.

“I got one proposal,” he says.

It was from the same person who Houtman told Have You Heard? about last week, and that’s someone who wants a party barge on the river, which would require hundreds of millions of dollars to dredge the river.

“It’s not feasible at all,” Houtman says. “Obviously we’re not going to be able to do that, so . . .”

So what’s next?

“We can see if other folks might be interested. Kind of spread the word a little differently,” he says. “We’ll just have to beat the bushes some more, talk to some other entrepreneurs, see who has some vision fitting into the constraints that we have.”

He may have gotten only one formal proposal, but Houtman says he was happy to receive “about a dozen e-mails with some great ideas for me to do.”

There’s just one catch, he says.

“I think they missed the part that they’re providing a business.”

The suggestions all involve his department doing the ventures.

“If the funding was there, yes,” Houtman says.

However, “I’m not going to be a restaurateur, nor am I going to be a boat captain.”

He says one interesting suggestion is the idea of putting something of a swimming pool in the river that would have docks all around it and utilize water from the river.

Houtman says it’s been done in England, Paris and other larger markets.

“It’s just kind of unique.”

And, before anyone asks the question, Houtman says the water is safe.

“It’s tested on a regular basis. There’s people that monitor it.”

If there were a river pool, Houtman says there would be even more testing.

“Whether it’s the right vision who knows?” he says. “I was going to share this idea with the riverfront river folks.”

That’s the group working on plans for the riverfront.

Houtman says ideas for utilizing the river should be sent to them anyway.

Other ideas included a dinner cruise and a tourist cruise that shares history of the city.

One person suggested removing trees along the river so views are better, and another person suggested planting more trees.

Even though there isn’t a clear path forward for utilizing the river, Houtman says, “It was great to see that people were actually interested and cared enough to give a response.”