Ready to rock the boat

Published 12:58 pm Saturday, July 31, 2010

Scott Hanna and volunteer construction workers pound nails into the boathouse's roof Friday. -- Andrew Dyrdal

Outdoor opportunities and water sports a hopeful draw to Albert Lea

With every shot of a nail gun fired by a volunteer construction worker, Community Education’s canoes, kayaks and paddle boards are closer to having a home.

Also coming to fruition is an environmental learning center that Albert Lea Fire Capt. Scott Hanna believes will be around for hundreds of years.

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“This building should still be standing here long after my great grandchildren are old people,” said Hanna, standing on structure’s roof, “with minimum maintenance.”

The Brookside Boathouse, which is currently under construction and estimated to be completed in late September, early October, is necessary because of the increase in popularity of paddle sports: canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding.

A sign reading "Future home of Brookside Boathouse Experimental Learning Center" stands near the construction site. -- Andrew Dyrdal

“It’s up over 600 people that (Community Ed. has) put on the water at the Brookside boat landing,” Hanna said. “Predominately canoeing and kayaking.”

The third sport, which is gaining popularity and requires more balance is paddle boarding, an activity in which you stand on board that resembles a surfboard and moves across the water with the use of a long paddle.

The paddle boards have been used this summer by Community Ed. classes and Albert Lea Learning Center Physical Education summer school students.

In addition to housing the paddle boards and other watercraft, Hanna expects the boathouse to develop into the symbol for outdoor activities in Albert Lea.

“There will be rain barrels for gardeners to wash vegetables,” Hanna said. “Hopefully (the boathouse) will continue to grow and develop over the years.”

This fall, Hanna plans to store new archery bows, bought with a Department of Natural Resources grant, in the boathouse along with snowshoes for winter hikes.

“Having this here will provide an opportunity to show younger people that there are things to do in Albert Lea,” Hanna said. “Albert Lea is the best for environmental resources.”

Overall, Hanna hopes the boathouse will spark more interest in outdoor activities and encourage more young people to move back to Albert Lea after graduating college.

“What (Community Ed.) is trying to get people to understand is that you need to look around Albert Lea and understand what there is to do for outdoor activies,” Hanna said. “If you like the outdoors at all, there is no better place to live.”