May 24, 2017
By Maggie Hohle
Sunday, June 4, is the 11th annual Day on The River. This event, held in Petaluma’s downtown turning basin, has become a start-of-summer mainstay in Petaluma, drawing hundreds of participants and dozens of volunteers. The fact that kids 12 and under boat for free makes it a happy day for families. Adults pay just $10.00. Parking is on Weller Street, by the River House. For its host, Petaluma Small Craft Center, it is a vision come to life; The Floathouse, a floating boat rental center planned to extend off of the public docks accessed by Baskin Robbins, will make every day a day on the river. On June 4, from 10 am to 2 pm, this 501(c)(3) nonprofit offers its ideal Petaluma River experience: people of all ages and abilities enjoying Petaluma from the river, on the widest variety of motorless watercraft possible.
To pull it off, PSCC gathers boats and staff from local businesses, puts some of its own boats on the water, and calls on long-time local partners like Clavey Paddlesports and Petaluma Stand Up Paddle, as well as North Bay Rowing Club (NBRC) and He’e Nalu and O’Hana Va’a Hawaiian outrigger canoe clubs. The Hawaiian outrigger canoeists take visitors on short rides, and the other vendors help kids and adults board and deboard the various colorful craft. The turning basin explodes with color on this day, with flags flapping and kayaks cruising, giving everyone an exciting view of what Petaluma can become, with river access for all: A real river town.
Executive Director Greg Sabourin founded the rowing club more than 30 years ago, owns a classic yacht, and has long been involved with wooden boat building. By bringing all of these clubs and businesses together on the first Sunday in June, he stresses PSCC’s enduring goal: building community through boating.
The group’s first facility, The Floathouse, a rental center that willfloat next to the public dock below TAPS, is shovel ready and merely awaits funding. $190,000 will keep the project on track for a spring/summer 2018 opening, which is truly a feat. The group has spent years planning, permitting, and writing grants, like the one that netted $180,000 from the San Francisco Bay Area Water Trail to buy the pilings and docks. Part of the project requirements for the city and the grant was to build a public restroom, which will be on the River House side.
The Floathouse will have 120’ of low dock, ideal for launching and landing small craft, a 20’ x 22’ floating office, and seven pilings, which PSCC hopes will be driven during the “fish window” of July 1- September 30, 2017. The pilings and docks are ready and waiting. Once built, The Floathouse will be “a beacon of boating”, the venue for rentals of a wide variety of craft, as well as events: not only the summer camps the group already offers (currently at the rowing club’s docks and the public docks by the yacht club), but also evening classes, spring break camps, VIP tours by electric boat, special community gatherings, local history boating tours, and more. There are many ways to donate, including naming opportunities and legacy gifts.
Downriver, PSCC plans a home for all of the clubs currently operating on properties up and down the river. At the moment, the NBRC boatyard serves as a de facto community boatyard. Situated behind Van Bebber Brothers, accessed through the Foundry Wharf parking lot at the end of 2nd Street, it hosts NBRC juniors and masters, SSU Crew, River Town Racers kayak racing club, and He’e Na’lu. All told, probably 150 boaters share the crowded space, communicating closely to schedule workouts and camps. PSCC holds two of its three summer camps there, NBRC has four juniors rowing camps and three adult Learn-to-Row sessions just over the summer months. The space is filled to the bursting point.
The Community Boathouse has already been sketched, under a pro-bono agreement, by Dahlin Group Architects, which will be proscribing the form of the single family homes for Comstock Homes at Riverfront, a Basin Street development. Although years away from completion, this boathouse will answer the clubs’ dreams to finally have a common home, docks, and a place to welcome the community to enjoy lessons in rowing, racing kayaking, and Hawaiian outrigger canoeing, and to consider membership in the various clubs for year-round outdoor activity on “Petaluma’s longest park”.
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