Crews working hard on improvements at ‘Oars and Paddles’

After a year in the works, the race is on to complete improvements at Oars and Paddles Park in Indian Harbour Beach before the arrival of international teams drawn to its unique geography on the Banana River near the Grand Canal and Dragon Point.

The Space Coast Dragon Boat Club last year made an application to the Brevard County Tourist Development Council (TDC) for an additional boat launch floating dock, a safety railing and additional parking; total cost, about $200,000. In May, the Indian Harbour Beach and Brevard County approved an interlocal agreement formalizing the reimbursement of the money to the city after the work is completed.

On Oct. 9, officials approved the project for Accu Dock to manufacture the additional floating dock and the materials to repair the existing floating dock which is to be installed by Shoreline Construction. Other aspects to the improvement project, including a safety rail and changes to the parking lot, will be part of a second phase.

The challenge in meeting the
Nov. 1 completion goal for the new dock is compounded by the recovery from Hurricanes Matthew and Irma.

“We can’t control the schedule of the installer. These vendors are extremely busy,’’ said Indian Harbour Beach City Manager Mark Ryan.

The international teams begin arriving to train as early as November, welcomed by temporary racks built by now Eagle Scout Ryan Cleasby with BSA Troop 314.

Fans of the park in advance of the Rio Olympics in 2016 included teams from the United States, Germany, Canada (three teams), Sweden, Norway, Korea, Japan and Finland. Additionally, the park hosts collegiate teams such as Brown University, St. Lawrence University and Florida Tech. Local high school teams use the park, as well as the Space Coast Crew that occupies the boathouse. Also, Oars and Paddles Park is utilized by the Space Coast Dragon Boat Club and the Heart & Soul Dragon Boat Team, Ryan said.

It’s the variety of paddling and rowing opportunities, with some sheltered from the prevailing winds, that brings so many teams in for training, said Dan Smith, owner of Paddling Paradise on Turkey Creek in Palm Bay.

“It’s a great spot with a lot of advantages for paddling. There are no tides and there is a 5-mile straight stretch on the Grand Canal. For those people who want to train where the water is rough, they can get out by Dragon Point and have that immediately,’’ Smith said.

The improvements were prompted by discussions with neighbors to the south who complained about unnecessary noise during launching. Along with parking changes and the rail for safety, the new dock is to help alleviate long staging times to make the process more efficient.

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