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By Jesse Coombs

Melissa Newell, an 8th grade teacher in Boise, has a yearly project for her students to do something significant. Conner Jackson is an avid kayaker and decided to apply his boundless energy to helping Boise get a white water park. Conner contacted me for ideas and suggestions, and then he made a big impact on the outcome with his tireless energy and film making skills. If you would like to see his film here is the link.
Also, I thought the email exchange between Conner, his father and me was interesting from seeing how he took this from just and idea to making a huge impact on the outcome. I have included that below. Very inspiring!
December 1, 2007

Hello Jesse,

This is Conner Jackson. I am in Ms. Newell’s 8th grade student at North Junior High in Boise, Idaho. I am very happy to be able to talk to you. I have seen all of your videos and am absolutely ecstatic to be able to have the chance of you helping me with my goal: a Boise Whitewater Park.

As of now, things are just getting started. I got into kayaking just a year ago and really love it, although I really only got my combat roll in the last 2-3 months. While the Payette River system is just up the road, the very idea of a Whitewater park in Boise intrigued me beyond comparison. The ability to ride my bike down to a hole in the morning, and still get back before lunch is something a lot kayakers in Boise really need.

Also, as part of my school project for Ms. Newell’s class, I chose to do the white water park. I would like to talk to you greatly and maybe even interview. As of my now, I am going to interview the head person of the white water park, as well as Rob Lesser. I think the more people we get on board, the more prominent our chances are of succeeding and opening a Whitewater park for Boise.

Plus, a whitewater park would attract more world-class kayakers, something that every kayaking kid in the state could benefit from.

Thank you for your time. Conner

December 4, 2007

Hi Connor,

Thanks for the nice words about my videos. It is great that you are advocating a Boise WW park. I believe that WW parks serve many important functions:
-tremendous fun
-stimulating to the local economy including tourism
-help locals and local governments think about water rights, water quality and water conservation
-promote community closeness
-give children and young adults something to do as an alternative to drugs and alcohol
-will be an important part of growing the sport of kayaking as children and families are introduced to kayaking in a fun, safe and easily accessible park

Congratulations on your quick learning and combat roll. It is very gratifying to improve and it sounds like you are doing great. I too would love a play spot only 5 minutes from my house where I could play whenever I had a little time. Honestly, I am considering moving before too long and will definitely choose a place where there will be year-round play within 15 minutes.

I’m glad Ms Newell is encouraging you and your fellow students to do a project like this, and congratulations on picking one that is meaningful to you. You will learn a lot no matter the outcome. Interviewing the head of the park and Rob Lesser is an excellent idea. You are absolutely right that getting more people on board will vastly improve your chances.

If you want to be motivated and really make a difference in getting the park to go through you will need to work hard at it, always wear a smile and do some very important things:
-Find out who makes decisions on things like this (council members, mayors, etc.) and appeal to them directly.
-Get as many signatures and support from the local community as possible
-Find prominent business people and developers to be on your side and promote it with you
-Everyone likes to help motivated children, so play up this quality you have as much as possible
-Create an organization, such as ‘Boise’s Children for a Whitewater Park’, and get as many kids and young adults to be members as possible. Parents ultimately support and do things that their kids want.
-Promote this WW Park as an important step in providing alternatives to drugs and alcohol for kids
-Do as much research as possible on existing parks: what works well, what does not, what the benefits have been, and use this knowledge to sell the positive aspects of a WW Park
-Research what area would work best for the park and look for other things that can be there as well that will turn this into not only a WW Park, but a multi-functional multi-interest site that will draw all kinds of people from the community, not just kayakers. This will also help to bring in more allies and promoters for the park.
-Start a blog on World Kayak dot com, write in it often, and get as many people reading it as possible.
-You want to create a web of interest in this project that takes on a life of its own. The govt. likely will not put in a WW Park because it makes financial sense. You will need to convince them of the non-financial benefits of the park.

I hope my ideas help, and don’t hesitate to ask me any questions. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. I look forward to hearing how this goes.

I have copied Eric Jackson, my sponsor, as this kind of kayaking community building always interests him.

I hope we can go kayaking together sometime soon.



Jesse Coombs

February 21, 2008


This is Conner Jackson’s father here just dropping you a note to thank you for your inspiration when you wrote to Conner about his efforts to promote the Boise Whitewater Park. He has made tremendous impact on the effort. He has completed the attached video to promote the park (with technical help from Skip Armstrong and mentoring by Melissa Newell).

He has met with the Mayor, he has jumped up and down on various people’s desks, he has pestered everyone involved and he now has several meetings going with wealthy philanthropists seeking the final donations that will get the job done. Just as you predicted, it seems impossible to stop a motivated kid with a cause. In part, he influenced the Mayor to push for a significant donation by the city that enabled the design to be contracted out. It is under design now. If CJ and others pushing this effort are successful in securing the final funding, the construction phase will break ground in the fall. I believe that will be the outcome. CJ really got fired up after your e-mail and I can say in that regard, we have you to thank for inspiring much of this. Thanks! Now he is beating on me daily and jumping up and down like a rabid Oddie dog asking when his Sidekick he got for Christmas will arrive.

Best regards

Link Jackson

February 21, 2008

Hi Link,

Holly Cow. What a great video. When Conner is ready for kayak film making, have him call me. It is excellent and hits on all the important points while keeping it with a kid’s appeal.

It is great to hear about Conner’s boundless energy and accomplishment in this arena. I’m sure he has learned a ton.

I am so glad that I have had some positive influence on this. I am awed that this could come together. I hope I can be there for the ground breaking and Grand Opening of the park.