CASPER, Wyo. — The 8-year-old boy rescued from the North Platte River two weeks ago sat at his father’s side during Tuesday’s Casper City Council work session. After prompting from his dad, Troy Bray, his eyes shifted from his shoes to the council members.
“I would like to cancel the (whitewater park on the) Platte River so no more people will get drowned in that river,” Rhys Bray said.
His father made it clear this was not a request.
“I guess this is me asking nicely: Take those obstructions out, let the water go free, make it less dangerous, the way it was naturally,” Troy Bray said. “The alternative is: I will sue, and I will spend every penny I get out of that to hire construction equipment and workers to take it out myself, and enough armed guards that the Casper police won’t interfere.”
Bray called the park a “death trap,” regardless of what safety equipment people wear. Rhys Bray’s friend, 11-year-old Alex Cressy, was swept away in the whitewater park and drowned on Aug. 11.
Councilmen Daniel Sandoval and Craig Hedquist questioned whether the benefits of a whitewater park outweighed the risks.
Sandoval recalled a friend who had a close call while kayaking and wondered how many others had similar stories.
Hedquist said constituents had approached him with similar sentiments as the Brays.
“I go by there and I only see a handful of kayaks … I can’t believe we are getting enough use out of that park that it justifies the people that have died in the short time it’s been out there,” Hedquist said.
Mayor Paul Meyer and Councilwoman Kenyne Schlager said there are many organizations and property owners involved with any work along that stretch of the river, but stressed that they were working on bringing those people together.
Meyer added that taking the boulders out of the North Platte might not make it any less dangerous.
“Without the proper safety gear, it is a dangerous situation,” Meyer said. “If the answer was we could guarantee no more tragedies by the removal of those rocks, I think all of us in public office would have a tough time, but I don’t know if that would necessarily be the answer.”