Tropicana Park: Question & Answer responses from rowing club, city and Northwest Neighborhood Association
The Breeze reached out to the various “stakeholders” working towards a solution in the Tropicana Park design debate.
The Cape Coral Rowing Club, the Northwest Neighborhood Association and the city of Cape Coral each agreed provide some history and also to answer some questions concerning their respective positions.
– Cape Coral Breeze Q&A Cape Coral Rowing Club:
The Breeze provided the following questions to the Cape Coral Rowing Club The response was provided by Saundra Weston, CCRC board member.
Q.) What is the Cape Coral Rowing Club?
A.) Cape Coral Rowing Club is a community-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the education and promotion of the sport of rowing. It is our mission to provide our community with a safe and friendly environment suitable for learning and practicing the physical skills, teamwork, and mental discipline that is foundational to the sport. Programs are available for youth and adult rowers. No prior experience is required.
Q.) What is your current “home” and how long have you been there?
A.) The rowing club was founded in 2007 with private donations from community leaders and the Rotary Club of Cape Coral. It is located adjacent the marina in Cape Harbour on land previously owned by Realmark Development. The land was provided to the club for use as a secure equipment storage area. The club has been operating from this location for the past 13 years and training in the waters of the South Spreader system.
Q.) By definition, what are “water sports” as they pertain to rowing or kayaking?
A.) Generically, water sports are simply those sports played on or in the water. While there are myriad water sports, not all are competitive or team sports. On calm waters, the most common water sports are rowing, sprint & recreational kayaking, sprint & recreational canoeing, and Stand Up Paddle boarding (SUP). Of these common flat water sports, rowing can be continued into college and offers excellent scholarship opportunity. It is also one of the oldest Olympic sports. Sprint canoe and kayak are Olympic sports that are wildly competitive and popular in Europe and enjoying a resurgence in the US.
Q.) What programs are offered?
A.) Current program offerings are geared toward youth rowers, ages 13 and up, and masters (or adult) rowers of all ages. Rowers can engage in sweep rowing or sculling. A guest rowing program permits rowers from all over the country and the world to enjoy time out on the water in club equipment when they visit the local area on holiday. There are also seasonal rowers who spend several months per year on the local waters. The club holds several “Learn to Row” clinics throughout the year to bring on new members of the community who want to try the sport. There are also occasional single-day, free events geared toward giving community members a taste of rowing without any obligation to join the group.
Q.) How many participants, by age group, take part in the program(s)?
A.) Participation levels have varied greatly throughout the years. While we’ve trained hundreds of local adults and youth over the years, we generally average around 50 regular members, about a third of which are youth rowers. We easily host another 50 or more guest rowers youth and adults – every winter (December through April).
Q.) Participation Costs?
A.) All program costs are listed on the club website at www.rowccrc.org/page/show/3196355-programs. Here’s a synopsis:
Adult Learn To Row (3 weekends / 6 sessions, 12 total hours of instruction): $185
Annual Membership: $450 (prorated based on time left in the year)
Seasonal Rowers: $300
Guest Rowing: $10/day; $25/week; $80/month
These rates are fairly similar to those charged for tennis memberships at the Yacht Club. www.capecoral.net/department/athletics/Tennis%20membership%20app%20(1).pdf
Q.) What waterway(s) do rowers in the club now use?
A.) The club primarily rows the waters of the South Spreader canal system, inside the Chiquita Lock. The South Spreader can be rowed about 10 kilometers west and north of the club’s launch dock in Cape Harbour Marina (20K round trip). Most practice sessions utilize the first 6 kilometers of the full 10K route (12K round trip).
Q.) Typical Use Times?
A.) A small group of single scull owners row early mornings on M-W-F from 7-8:30 am. This group usually consists of 4-6 people.
Youth crew practices from 4-6 pm on T-W-Th afternoons and at 7:15 am on Saturday mornings.
Masters crew practices from 6-7:30 pm on T-W-Th evenings and at 7 am on weekend mornings.
Crew practices (youth & masters) tend to regularly utilize 1-2 boats. Youth crew is always accompanied by a coach in a safety boat.
Q.) Do you race in Cape Coral
A.) No. The club typically travels to regatta events in Sarasota, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, and Venice. The club has never hosted a race of any kind in Cape Coral.
Q.) Why do you need to move?
A.) The land the club currently occupies was sold by Realmark in 2015 and, again, in 2019. www.businessobserverfl.com/article/four-parcels-totaling-19-acres-sold-in-cape-harbour-marina-community-in-cape-coral-for-dollar8-million
The current owner has plans to develop the land, so, the rowing club is required to relocate. For this reason, the rowing club has been in discussions with city government since January 2019, seeking a partnership with Parks and Recreation and a new base of operations on waterfront land.
While the relocation is borne of necessity, the partnership with the city promises to be of great benefit to the entire community.
Q.) Why Tropicana Park?
A.) Tropicana Park is an ideal location for rowing for a number of reasons. It is waterfront land on the city’s other major spreader canal system (North Spreader). In fact, it is one of the last pieces of city owned land designated for public use located on a spreader canal. As such, the water is calm, protected, speed controlled and virtually current free ideal for rowing. The waterway is almost identical to the South Spreader that has been successfully and safely navigated since the club’s inception. The Park is easily accessible as it is located directly off of main roadways Veteran’s Memorial Parkway, Burnt Store Road, and Tropicana Parkway. This makes the park efficient and convenient to travel to from various areas. Parks are nearly always home to Community Athletic Organizations (Pop Warner, Little League, youth soccer, BMX, girls’ softball) like the rowing club. A city park provides amenities that non-profits are not positioned to acquire on their own land, utilities, facilities, and parking. A city park is a safe, well lit, public use location where parents can confidently leave their children for a couple of hours of rowing practice. In a partnership with Cape Coral Parks and Recreation, the only sensible location for the rowing club is in a waterfront city park on a spreader canal.
Q.) What is needed from the city of Cape Coral?
A.) In order to continue operations, the rowing club needs use of land adjacent a suitable waterway for secure equipment storage. The club needs access to said waterway (floating dock) and access to basic utilities (electricity and running water). In practical terms, this means that the club needs to enter into a partnership agreement with the City of Cape Coral to use a small area of land within Tropicana Park.
Q.) What would be the benefits to the city?
A.) The city would add rowing to its Parks and Recreation programming portfolio, which is currently devoid of water sports offerings. The program offerings would be available to youth and adults throughout the city. The 2016 Parks Master Plan which forms the basis for the 2018 GO Bond Referendum is littered with community expressed needs that would be met by rowing programming. Some examples of these communicated needs are: more outdoor fitness options, more water-related sports offerings, more & improved launches for non-motorized craft, adult fitness and wellness programs, adult programs for 50 years and older, after school programs for youth, boating and kayaking parks, and support for new or increased programming in neighborhood parks. In addition to meeting basic, citywide, recreational needs, crew rowing also presents significant scholarship opportunities to area youth. High school girls who row have a nearly 56% percent chance of being awarded full or partial scholarships to schools with crew programs. For boys with rowing experience, the odds are about 18%. The number of rowing scholarships per team at NCAA Division I and II schools (20) is second only to the number available for football programs. There are four NCAA Division I and six NCAA Division II schools in Florida that offer scholarships for their university crew programs.
Q.) What would it “cost” the city?
A.) The cost to the city would presumably be the use of the land covered by a partnership agreement. The area of the proposed Tropicana Park that has been targeted for potential use by the rowing club is a portion of the southeast corner which did not have any amenities shown on the original concept plan. Because this area was simply landscaped, open space, it seemed an ideal spot for a new amenity. This type of “cost” is present in myriad other city parks that have priority use agreements with other non-profit community athletic organizations (e.g. batting cages at Burton Memorial Park, restroom and concession facilities at multiple priority use parks, etc.). The rowing club is not asking for any kind of accommodation above or beyond that afforded other non-profits that currently enjoy provision in 9 city parks.
Q.) Long range plans should the club receive a lease?
A.) Continue to operate current programs and work with the city to add niche programs to the portfolio, such as para and adaptive rowing. Work with the city to bring in additional water sports offerings, if there is community demand for such programs. Approach the city about a long-range vision to build a public access community center that would include boat storage.
Q.) What happens if the city cannot accommodate a lease at Tropicana Park?
A.) The rowing club would stay in its current space until development commenced and then attempt to sell its inventory of equipment and fold its operation in Cape Coral.
Q.) Anything to add?
A.) Currently, international sprint paddlers from various countries around the world use Cape Coral’s South Spreader waterway for winter training. Tourism opportunities abound in this particular area. Rowers and paddlers alike are always on the hunt for appropriate and welcoming venues for winter training. If the City engaged in some longer range planning now, it could position itself to accommodate a number of programs seeking such a training location. These groups would bring tourism dollars into the community and provide opportunities in an area of the city that doesn’t typically enjoy them. Most paddlers stay in waterfront rental homes in the SW Cape and rowing training has never been advertised or offered, due to inadequate facilities. While this is not part of any current scope with the Cape Coral Rowing Club, a presence in the park would be a step in the right direction for hosting visiting programs of all types.
– Cape Coral Breeze Q&A NW Neighborhood Association:
The Breeze provided the following questions to the Northwest Neighborhood Association. The response was provided by John Bashaw, association president.
– What is the NWNA?
– How many members?
– When did the association become involved with the plans for Tropicana Park?
– What is the association’s position on the proposed plans for the park in general? The possible lease of a site within the park to a rowing club and/or a kayak club? Does the association oppose the installation of a floating dock for the launch of paddle craft?
– Reason for the position?
– Can the spreader accommodate rowers? Kayakers?
– Anything else?
The association has chosen to provide the following statement:
“My comments in response to the survey are as follows:
“The Tropicana Neighborhood Park Concept Plans shown to the residents were not the concept plans the City intended to build. Plans to make Tropicana Park a Watersports Park for Kayking and Rowing Clubs have been in progress since 2005, but were not disclosed to the residents until it was too late for the residents to give public input. This issue is not about Rowing, Kayaking, or the NWNA. This issue is about truth in government and is a clear case of bait and switch.
“A reasonable solution to build the Tropicana Neighborhood Park concept shown to the public and provide two city owned lots on Old Burnt Store Road for the Rowing Club was rejected by the Rowing Club.
– Cape Coral Breeze Q&A, City of Cape Coral:
The Breeze provided the following questions to the City of Cape Coral. The answers were provided by Kerry Runyon, director of Parks and Recreation:
– How long have Cape Coral residents been involved in the quest for a paddle-boat type launch in the north Cape?
For 20 years, but it was not until the passage of the 60 million bond issue that it became a realistic possibility.
– Who, or what groups, have been involved in the efforts for a water-related amenity at Tropicana Park? What amenities have been proposed, discussed or discarded?
Northwest Neighborhood Association, Southwest Florida Canoe and Kayak Club, and the Rowing Club have had input on the design.
The following amenities have been proposed for water related activities: public launch with shade pavilion for inclement weather, trailer parking for towed non-motorized vessels.
The original residents that formed the Northwest Cape Coral Neighborhood Association in 2004 along with interest from various kayaking groups, including the local YGPS kayak group that has been active for 16 years. The Cape Coral Rotary Club has long been interested in establishing a Kayak/Rowing Center at Tropicana Park. More significantly, The Cape Coral Rowing Club (CCRC, formerly Caloosa Coast Rowing Club) and the now defunct South Florida Canoe and Kayak Club (SFCKC) have long had a successful symbiotic relationship with the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. For past several years (5-6) of its existence The SFCKC operated out of a city owned building located on Lake Kennedy providing a variety of after school programs, summer programs for Special Populations and many others. For the past 13 years, the Cape Coral Rowing Club (CCRC) has operated from a parcel of waterfront property in the Cape Harbour Marina area, just north of the Chiquita Lock in the South Spreader Waterway
– When did the now-closed kayak group and the rowing club become part of the conversation?
My first scheduled meeting with the two groups was during the 1st public input session at Oasis. We met with AECOM and both clubs for 30 minutes after the session closed. We were advised the clubs did not have a land lease and where expecting to be at Tropicana park which is why there was a bubble diagram indicating where they might be located.
– How, and at what point, did the addition of a floating dock become part of the plans for Tropicana Park?
All of the city’s canoe and kayak launches are floating docks.
– What did the first take-it-to-the-public plan for Tropicana Park call for? Proposed investment?
– What does the Council-approved plan for Tropicana Park call for? Proposed investment?
– Reason for the differences, if any?
Finalized concept plan based on input from Public Sessions on the initial park concept developed prior to the November electorate voting for the bond.
– What’s next?
We are designing the approved plans from December 2nd. 30% design submittals have been delivered.
– Anything to add?