2008-11-14 / Community

Experience The Gateway Bike And Boathouse

By Nicholas Briano

The Rockaway Princess makes a recent docking at Riis Landing, the future site of the new Bike and Boathouse.  The Rockaway Princess makes a recent docking at Riis Landing, the future site of the new Bike and Boathouse. Rick Horan has wondered for more than 20 years why the people of Rockaway have a tendency to only explore and enjoy the Atlantic Ocean side of the peninsula and not the Jamaica Bay side as well.

Access, he says, has always been the problem. Most of the land along the bayfront is protected wetlands, and not available for commercial or recreational use according to federal regulations.

Horan, however, has come up with an idea that would connect the residents of Rockaway with the ecological beauty of the bay.

That idea has quickly become what will be known as the Gateway Bike and Boathouse. It would give residents a place to store and launch canoes, kayaks, rowing shells and small sailboats into Jamaica Bay without having to leave the peninsula.

The concept began in spring 2007 when Horan, now president of the not-for-profit organization behind the project, contacted the National Park Service and presented his vision for a section of Gateway National Recreation Area that will provide residents a chance to enjoy their waterfront community in ways that have been restricted in the past. The negotiations led to the signing of a five year lease that would grant the not-for-profit the right to construct and operate the Bike and Boathouse at Riis Landing, with the hope of a spring 2009 opening.

"It is not about fancy looks but rather that functionality of the project," Horan says. "We want to keep it affordable without much overhead and expenses."

Recreation opportunities would include bike and boat rentals that will provide people, who may not necessarily be able to afford and store their own boat, a chance to get onto the water and experience what Rockaway's natural geography has to offer.

Horan encourages people to come out and not be intimidated by something they may not have tried before, by providing boat instruction and tours of Jamaica Bay and bike tours of Fort Tilden and Floyd Bennett Field. He also encourages the community to support the development of the project, because much of its success hinges on this, as well as on its usage. "We want to be a community organization that grants the public access to Jamaica Bay that they have been lacking for a long time," he said. "I really think the community will embrace this and in the years coming we may grow even more." The Gateway Bike and Boathouse is a registered not-for-profit organization whose stated mission is, "To encourage the enjoyment of Jamaica Bay and its surroundings on bicycles and non-motorized watercraft for the promotion of health, education and fun!" One of their goals is to make it an all-volunteer operation in order to keep membership prices low. Horan says the bike and boathouse's operational funding will come primarily through grants, corporate and individual donations, as well as from membership and usage fees.

At first the Gateway Bike and Boathouse will consist of six 40-foot shipping containers that will be outfitted with all necessary operating materials and accommodations. Horan says, their budget for construction, scheduled this winter, is approximately $20,000. Donations in the form of bicycles, boats or money are appreciated, he said.

The Gateway Bike and Boathouse will be hosting a fundraiser and public awareness event, which Horan describes as their Kick-Off event on Saturday, November 22 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Board members Nancy and Bill Hanson will host the event at their 138 Beach 133 Street home. The primary goal, he says will be to introduce the Gateway Bike and Boathouse to potential charter members and supporters of all kinds.

"We hope that the community can join us for this informal gathering that will feature great food, beer, wine, live music and lots of enthusiasm," he continued.

The suggested donation is $20 if booked in advance, or $25 at the door. As an added motivation, Horan says, the donation can be applied to a first year membership, which he is estimating will cost approximately $175 per individual and $250 per family that would include boat storage. He also says there is a supporting membership option available for $75 as well.

Horan does ask that anyone interested in attending the event on November 22, please RSVP via their website at www.GatewayBoathouse.org, by calling 718- 634-1144, or e-mailing info@GatewayBoathouse.org.

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Great idea! This should also help the ferry service grow which is just what we need.

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