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Developer and city paddle towards a plan for False Creek boathouse

 A long-awaited boathouse for False Creek’s thousands of paddlers could finally be in the works. Developer Concord Pacific has confirmed…

By Ian Wood , in City , on November 25, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Pat Pawlett at the False Creek Racing and Canoe Club explains the space and access constraints faced by rowers and paddlers on false creek.
Pat Pawlett at the False Creek Racing and Canoe Club explains the space and access constraints faced by rowers and paddlers on False Creek.

 A long-awaited boathouse for False Creek’s thousands of paddlers could finally be in the works.

Developer Concord Pacific has confirmed it is willing to contribute money to build a non-motorized boating facility on the north side of False Creek as part of its negotiations with the city in the rezoning of its last large chunk of land in that area.

If that deal works out, one of the city’s most popular waterways for rowers and paddlers will finally have a home for them — one that has been discussed for the last twenty years and that was promised years ago for the Olympic village waterfront, but never materialized.

“Some money has been discussed [with the city] for partial funding of a boathouse,” says Concord vice-president Matt Meehan.

Concord is already involved in the paddling community through its sponsorship of the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival, which involves a contribution of boats and storage space.  Preliminary discussions have revolved around building the facility between the Plaza of Nations and Science World in northeast False Creek.

“The hope is to include a facility for non-motorized boats that can be used by all rowers and paddlers,” said Meehan.

FCRCC stores equipment wherever there is space available including this lot far from their office on Granville Island.
FCRCC stores equipment wherever there is space available, including this lot far from their office on Granville Island.

High Hopes

The negotiations with Concord are raising hope with the city’s two major paddling clubs, Dragon Zone Paddling Club and the False Creek Racing and Canoe Club (FCRCC), whose members ply the waters of False Creek year-round.

“I think it’s terrific. I’m not sure any one thing will meet the needs, but I still think it’s important to have a permanent facility.  It means paddling is going to be able to stay in the Creek,” says FCRCC Commodore Pat Pawlett.

At the moment, the two clubs operate out of a collection of trailers, with limited community-centre access to store equipment and get ready.

Club leaders say there’s a real fear that paddling will lose any chance for a permanent facility and its place on False Creek, as development around the inlet takes away access to storage space and the shoreline.  False Creek is an important waterway for rowers and paddlers because it is sheltered from the wind and centrally located.

Paddling Community

The rowing community practices everyday on False Creek rain or shine throughout the year.
The rowing community practices every day on False Creek, rain or shine, throughout the year.

The inlet’s popularity is visible to everyone in the city.

“Any day of the week starting early in the morning there are people out paddling all day.  There is a year-round demand because there are so many users,” says Pawlett.

FCRCC is one of the largest competitive rowing and paddling groups in western Canada.  It sent 10 teams to world championships last year and has thousands of members taking part in dragon boating, outrigger canoeing, and flat-water paddling.

Pawlett says anything would be better than the temporary and piecemeal storage and office space her growing club currently occupies on Granville Island and a vacant lot near Vanier Park.

“We would like to see something at the very least and we will certainly make a push [to be at the new facility].  Anything that supports paddling either directly or indirectly is good.”

Another Study

One mystery for many is what happened to the boathouse that was planned for the south side of the inlet.

The 2004 southeast False Creek plans included a “non-motorized boating facility” that never materialized at the Olympic village.  The facility is still mentioned in the plans, with talk of having it built by 2020, but there are no firm dates or designs.

Council, at the urging of NPA Coun. George Affleck, recently voted to order a feasibility study, which could move things along.  Affleck was prompted to get the ball rolling, after the Dragon Zone Paddling Club’s temporary storage trailer was broken into.

There are several groups that paddle on False Creek recreationally and competitively that bring involvement from all corners of the city.  Affleck says, “There should be something given the profile of the water in the city.”