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Rowers want boating centers in Anne Arundel to boost water access, paddle sports

A concept plan for a community boat house on a 19-acre extension of Quiet Waters Park, which Anne Arundel County is in the process of acquiring. - Original Credit:
A concept plan for a community boat house on a 19-acre extension of Quiet Waters Park, which Anne Arundel County is in the process of acquiring. - Original Credit: (Anne Arundel County/HANDOUT)

Early in the morning while the sun is still rising, the matchstick-thin boats glide across the water, rowers pulling oars in unison, slicing through the reflection of the sunrise on the surface. Graceful.

On land, it isn’t as easy to move the kind of racing boats used by crew teams and other organized paddlers. Hulls don’t glide seamlessly on pavement. And where do you put a 25-foot boat when you’re done with it?

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Finding space to store their equipment is a challenge for the Annapolis Rowing Club, school rowing teams and other paddle sports groups in the region, Chris Poulsen, coordinator of Anne Arundel Paddling and Rowing Community (PARC) said in an interview Thursday. That’s why under PARC, rowers of all kinds are pushing for the creation of boat centers which they — and the public in general — can use to get on county waterways.

The locations could be used as a place for clubs to operate out of, store boats and share equipment, and for the public in general to launch kayaks, canoes or paddle boards.

Poulsen said connecting people with the water will make them care more about its health.

"If they’re not on the water, how can they care about the water, " she said.

The rowing group have specific needs for the center: a dock to secure boats used by coaches, a place to train off-water, racks to store boats and security to make sure nothing gets stolen away.

The spot needs to be sheltered from wind, making it easier to paddle.

Much is left to be decided, including where the centers would go.

Getting some space, even without a building, is their priority right now, Poulsen said. One factor for cost is the type of structure they build — something like a tent building could be suitable for their needs, she said, and is similar to what the Anacostia Community Boathouse Association in Washington, D.C. uses.

Anne Arundel County is involved in the effort as part of its goal to increase water access in the county. Parks and Recreation Director Rick Anthony said the county has hired BayLand Consultants & Designers to reach out to marinas about possible partnerships for a boat center location.

“If there is a marina that has some access and some room to improve and expand, that’s feasible,” Anthony said.

The county is in the process of acquiring a 19-acre parcel of land connected to Quiet Waters Park, and that spot has risen to the top as an option for a boat house, Anthony said. Anthony said while Steve Schuh’s administration was interested in putting a boat ramp in Quiet Waters Park, the administration of Steuart Pittman is less keen on that idea.

A concept plan published by BayLand in April shows a potential facility next to Loden Pond, with an access road leading from parking lots to a pier with floating docks and a small craft launch. There is an existing boat house at the site, which means a new one could be built on its footprint, reducing disturbance to the natural site. The plan would cost an estimated $2 million.

It’s not perfect though — the water may be too shallow for some of the larger paddle-powered boats such as Irish Rowboats.

Annapolis Irish Rowing Club “Captain” Egan Nerich said that location may be too shallow for them, but said there is definitely a need for such a center in Anne Arundel. But he said water access is harder and harder to come by in Annapolis, and such a center would allow clubs like his to expand operations.

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“Let’s do it,” he said.

Anthony said the county’s mission overlaps with PARC’s, but because the project meets such a specific need, a partnership is appropriate, rather than the county outright building a facility.

PARC says they will need buy-in from the members of the clubs and the communities who will ultimately use the boat house.

“It’s a place where people can go have access to the water sports and I would expect everybody who’s participating in it to participate in raising money, or help out with that,” she said.

She doesn’t think it’ll be hard to build a strong community around the new centers, allowing rowing programs to grow as well. It’s not baseball, but still, she says: “If you build it, they will come.”

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