Family fun on the water

A person tries his hand at kayaking during one of this season’s first Free Family Boating events in Toledo. They are held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays through Labor Day. (Photo by Gloria Tucker)

Free boating program in Toledo sees growth

The Toledo Community Boathouse supported more than 1,000 visits to the Yaquina River last summer. That’s up from 400 the year before.

From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays, volunteers offer to assist anyone looking to enjoy the water through a program called Free Family Boating, which takes place at the boathouse on the Toledo Waterfront. The twice-weekly schedule will continue through Labor Day.

“We have 33 boats that we check out to folks,” organizer Joe Novello said. “We have sailboats, rowboats, kayaks, stand up paddle boards and canoes.”

New to the fleet this year are small kayaks for children ages 4 or 5, trainer sailboats for 10 to 15 year olds, two additional tandem kayaks and two additional large sailboats.

The boating program has its roots in a Newport program that started around eight years ago.

“I was running the high school sailing program, and I wanted to do something to encourage kids to want to learn to sail,” Novello said. “We were doing it at Port Dock 7 in Newport, but it was too windy, there was the fog and you’re also around all the commercial boats. I talked to Toledo Port Manager Bud Shoemake, and he asked me to move the program here.”

Three years ago, the Water Recreation and Education Center (WREC) boathouse was built to make free family boating available.

“The Retired Old Guys Sailing Club, about seven to 10 of us, get together every Tuesday to do community service,” Novello said. “We mow lawns, put roofs on people’s houses and we built the (WREC) boathouse.”

Novello said several of the people who take part in Free Family Boating come back over and over again.

“We don’t collect any information on people,” he said. “We don’t take money. It’s purely come have fun on the water, no strings attached. I think it’s grown because of that philosophy.”

The program is made possible, in part, through donations from the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund and the Oregon Boating Foundation.

To learn more about the program, go online at oregonboatingfoundation.org and click on “Free Family Boating,” or search for Toledo Community Boathouse on Facebook.

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