Calgarians had their first chance Monday night to examine plans to turn the dangerous waters around the Bow River Weir into a playground for canoeists and kayakers.

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The Parks Foundation Calgary wants to turn the dangerous waters around the Bow River Weir into a safe place for canoeists and kayakers. ((Parks Foundation Calgary))

Several dozen people attended the open house at the Calgary Zoo on the $6.4-million Harvie Passage project.

The weir — or low head dam — was built slightly downstream of the zoo in 1904 to divert water from the Bow River into an irrigation canal.

It creates an impassable, recirculatingwavefor canoeists and kayakers known as a "drowning machine." A dozen people havedied at the weir over the past 30 years.

The parks foundation wants to raise the water level over the weir so it's no longer aproblem.Kayakers and canoeistswould then be able to travelsafely along that sectionof the river, where rocks will be placed to createnavigablerapids and calmpools.

"It's designed for anybody under any circumstances. Even if somebody accidentally fell in, they would be flushed through these waves and then they could either walk or swim to shore," spokesman Howard Heffler said.

Longtime canoeist Peter Allen said the changes should be popular.

"If you're solely after a recreational opportunity, then it's going to be pretty good. If you're after mitigating the issue of safety around the weir, it's going to be pretty good."

Work on the project will start later this year and should be complete in a year or two, depending on river conditions. The cost is being covered by the province, the city and the Calgary Foundation.