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Bowling Green submits application to fund Barren River whitewater adventure park

A rendering of the Riverfront Park project including the Barren River Whitewater Park.
Bowling Green Neighborhood and Community Services
A rendering of the Riverfront Park project including the Barren River Whitewater Park.

The City of Bowling Green is seeking federal funds to build a new multi-million dollar whitewater rafting park on Barren River.

The Bowling Green City Commissioners approved a grant application for $3.64 million in federal funds that would go toward the Barren River Whitewater Park Project. The City also agreed to fund the remainder of the project that will help revitalize the downtown Riverfront Park. The total estimated cost of the project is $7.28 million.

Brent Childers, Director of Neighborhood & Community Services, said the project is still in the early stages but expects a decision regarding the grant this fall.

“We’re appreciative of the City Commission’s support for allowing us to submit an application,” Childers said. “At this point all we’ve done is submit an application. It would be fall before we hear whether or not the grant was funded. So that’s the timeline we’re at right now.”

The park would provide recreational opportunities by adding whitewater rapid elements to Barren River for rafting enthusiasts. The project would also offer space for anglers and aquatic activities for children and people with disabilities.

The grant is requesting $3.64 million in funding from the National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund’s Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program. The city has partnered with the Recreation Engineering and Planning in Boulder, Co., and Riverfront Park’s design firm, MKSK, on the project plan. If the grant is approved, the project would then work on securing the required permits for construction before taking bids. Final construction could be completed as early as 2026, according to Childers.

The city unveiled the Riverfront Park Master Plan in January and whitewater sports was one of the top five responses from the community for the future of Riverfront Park. The Riverfront Park would transform 70-acres of downtown riverfront into a destination for the region.

Childers said the overall mission of the project is to create a regional destination in Bowling Green.

“Since we’re building this outdoor adventure theme park, we want to build a true destination park by putting people in the river and getting people to access the river and being able to draw upon a three-hour radius of about nine-million people to engage in Bowling Green,” Childers said.

Jacob Martin is a Reporter at WKU Public Radio. He joined the newsroom from Kansas City, where he covered the city’s underserved communities and general assignments at NPR member station, KCUR. A Louisville native, he spent seven years living in Brooklyn, New York before moving back to Kentucky. Email him at