Putting the `falls' back in Wichita Falls, Texas

City officials here got a little tired of the visitor's oft-heard lament, ``Why are there no falls in Wichita Falls?'' So they decided to do something about it. On Tuesday the city council will review bids on a plan to, as a song goes, ``Put the falls back in Wichita Falls.'' The song, written and sung by a local country-western artist, is just one part of a fund-raising campaign that should result in a waterfall returning to the Big Wichita River by Thanksgiving.

The new manmade waterfall -- actually a series of falls cascading 52 feet -- will be a far cry from the four-foot natural falls that gave this city its name.

The original falls were silenced about a century ago after some entrepreneurs built an earthen dam upstream as part of a grist mill. The first big rain washed out the dam, and the dirt filled in the waterfall. So long, namesake.

Plans have come and gone ever since to bring the falls back, according to Wichita Falls Mayor Charles Harper. But it was the idea for a riverfront park, stretching past the old falls site into downtown, that really got the revival going.

Mayor Harper figures the new waterfall will cost about $400,000, half of which will come from private fund-raising. ``Money has come in from as far away as New York state,'' says Harper.

City leaders are also organizing what they say will become the annual ``falls fest'' for the first week of June. Proceeds will benefit the waterfall project.

Actually, the city could end up with two falls.

Riverfront park designer Al Groves, best known for recent extensions to San Antonio's famed Riverwalk, and now working on a similar river park in Indianapolis, is calling for a low-water dam (not earthen this time) to be built on the Big Wichita River to keep the water flow constant.

Fortunately, having two waterfalls won't require the city to change its name.

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