VERO BEACH – A proposed community rowing boathouse has gotten the Vero Beach Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee’s conceptual approval.
Where, exactly, the 6,000-square-foot structure would be located remains to be determined. For two hours, the committee heard from the Indian River Rowing Club and members of the public who seemed to be at odds over where the boathouse should be sited.
Based on city and county staff recommendations, club member Charles Sullivan Jr. told the committee that they are proposing a site next to the River House, on what is currently the off-lease dog park.
Several dog park users spoke before the committee – many saying that they do not oppose the boathouse, just the location.
Long-time dog park user Wally Leopold told the committee that where the rowing club is proposing to build is the only spot on the five-acre site that has shade. He proposed the boathouse be moved elsewhere.
“I don’t have a location,” Sullivan told the committee and the audience. He explained that the proposed site came from discussions with City Manager Jim Gabbard and County Administrator Joe Baird.
Members of the rowing club said they would be willing to consider other city-owned property near the river for the boathouse.
The Indian River Rowing Club developed the concept for a community boathouse that would be used to store sculls, kayaks and other self-propelled watercraft.
Along with the boat storage, if funding permitted, there would be training room with rowing-related exercise equipment, administrative office space, and a banquet hall that would be available for the community’s use – not just the rowing club.
“This is something that is fundamental to our community,” Sullivan told the committee and likened community rowing to having a football team, tennis courts and golf courses.
Something had to give to make room for those facilities – and accommodations have to be made to handle the crowds they might generate.
Sullivan said that if the club were lucky, it would be able to attract or organize two rowing regattas a year. Only in those instances would rowing traffic possibly interfere with motorized boat traffic, he said.
Sullivan suspects that if a boathouse with training and meeting space were established in Vero Beach, the city could attract rowers from the North or from around the world for training in the off season.
Already, the boathouse at the C-54 Canal near Fellsmere, in Brevard County, attracts colleges from around the country looking for warmer waters during winter. The Sebastian River High School rowing team trains out of the C-54 Canal.
Vero Beach High does not have a rowing team, but might develop a rowing program if a boathouse were nearby, Sullivan said.
Committee members unanimously signed off on the Indian River Rowing Club’s conceptual plan, but told the group that it must work to flesh out its business plan and financial model before presenting to the Vero Beach City Council.