Andy Magness, Grand Forks, column: Boathouse could open Red River to canoeingLet’s build on this momentum with a riverside boathouse, providing more recreational opportunities on the very rivers that formed our community identity and further creating a great place to live, work and play.
By: Andy Magness,
By Andy Magness
GRAND FORKS — I love the Greenway just like everyone else. Miles of bike paths, picturesque bridges, scenic views and, of course, the rivers themselves — perfect settings for warm summer afternoon paddles.
What’s that? No one paddles on them?
Astonishing, perhaps (at least to me), but it’s true.
As a race director, I’ve spent hundreds of hours on the Greenway and more than 80 days paddling on the Red and Red Lake rivers. I’ve never seen another soul using the rivers for nonmotorized recreational purposes outside of the Extreme North Dakota Adventure Races.
I’d like to change this by adding a boathouse to the Greenway.
I think there are two main problems facing the river: a bad reputation and logistics.
The first is the perception of the river as a dangerous. The rivers are deadly without proper gear and knowledge, especially while intoxicated. Annual flooding makes the river an adversary.
These factors contribute to an undeserved bad reputation. After all, we don’t blame cars or roads when drunk drivers who aren’t wearing a seat belt kill or injure themselves.
The second problem is one of logistics. The only way to rent canoeing equipment locally is through UND’s office of Lifetime Sports. The inconvenience of time and money is often a deal breaker.
Additionally, there are no learning resources for paddling — no courses, demonstrations, or clubs. Grand Forks is alone among cities on the Red River in this regard; both Fargo and Winnipeg have thriving paddling clubs, host well-attended annual canoe races and have boathouses for nonmotorized recreation.
The Greenway is immensely popular and proudly promoted in the community. And in my opinion, the Red and Red Lake rivers are the heart of the Greenway. Development addressing the above issues will further capitalize on the Greenway by increasing summer recreation and outdoor appeal.
The logistical problems disappear with the addition of a riverside boathouse filled with canoes, kayaks and other watercraft for public use. On a nice summer evening, there will be dozens of people on the water – much the way Lincoln Park now fills with folks skiing, skating and snowshoeing on sunny winter afternoons thanks to the equipment available at the warming house.
Introductory paddling seminars will safely encourage river recreation. The perception of the river will change with the growing use of this valuable natural resource.
Not to mention that the water is a great escape from those pesky mosquitoes.
There is positive momentum in our town. UND’s state-of-the-art Wellness Center and the community’s ambitious new Choice Wellness Center demonstrate our city’s embrace of health and wellness.
Let’s build on this momentum with a riverside boathouse, providing more recreational opportunities on the very rivers that formed our community identity and further creating a great place to live, work and play.
Magness is an organizer of the Extreme North Dakota Adventure Race, an endurance race involving running, bicycling, canoeing and navigating by compass.