Rowers propose a small boat center in Freeland

"A group of rowing enthusiasts came to the Port of South Whidbey meeting Wednesday with plans in hand for a small boat center they hope the Port will build in or near Freeland Park.They would like to see a time when people no longer have to lug their kayaks, canoes, sailing dinghies or racing shells around on top of their cars. A small boat center would allow the craft to be kept near Holmes Harbor for a small monthly fee.The Island Rowing Association contingent was headed by Dave Haworth, and consists mainly of hobbyists who enjoy exercising and racing in shells, the narrow, high-speed rowboats seen in the Olympics.But their proposed small boat center would also have room to store other small boats. The drawing by an architect shows two boathouses 80 feet long and 13 feet high, separated by an open yard that, when fenced, would provide secure open storage for numerous boats.It's not intrusive both physically and visually, Haworth told the port commissioners. They didn't have a particular site in mind, but would like the small boat center close to Freeland Park and the water.At present, the Island Rowing Association stores its handful of boats at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, where Matt Nichols gave them room to build a small shelter in a secure location.Beyond the small boat center, the group would like the Port to provide a floating dock and walkway, so boats wouldn't have to be dragged across the mud at very low tide. The commissioners expressed concern about a long permitting process for such a project, and the consensus was it could wait. Boaters would be satisfied to start with a place to store their boats and carry them to the water.Haworth said the small boat center could be built for $50,000, including labor, materials and landscaping. A small monthly rental charge for boaters could pay for maintenance.Commissioner Jan Smith said the facility could boost tourism, and thus would have an economic advantage to the community, and Commissioner Jim Hawley said it would be a boon to youth boating programs.The same group first approached the Port several years ago. Now that the plans have been drawn, they would like the Port to fund the project as soon as possible.Wonderful job, said Smith. We'll be in touch. "

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