Last night Malvern Prep and the Haverford School asked Borough Council to pass a resolution in support of a boathouse being built behind Riverwalk at 309 Washington Street. The deal between the schools and the Borough is that Borough provides land and the schools build the boathouse at no cost to the Borough and provide space within the boathouse for a community program. There is also supposed to be a kayak vendor. Borough Council did vote and it passed. To be clear, this was not a vote to break ground, but a vote to begin the community engagement and fundraising process based on this location.
Before I get into what is next regarding the Boathouse, some interesting history came up when former council member Gerald McTamney brought up the fact that O’Neill Properties had promised an ice skating rink, amphitheater and other amenities for the community when it sought to build Riverwalk and Londonbury. Obviously these things were never built.
Back to the Boathouse. So the first question that was asked of attorney Ross Weiss, you may remember him from the SuperWawa town hall, was if the residents of Riverwalk had been informed/asked about this yet. The answer was no. So there will now begin a process (not sure what it is yet) to allow for community input, from Riverwalk residents and the community in general.
Another question that was raised is whether adding additional rowers to the river would create overcrowding. The answer was no, because the two schools already row in Conshohocken from another location, and the only new program would be the Boroughs. There also was concern about parking and the storage of the boat trailers. There is parking in the plan and they promised to park the trailers back at the schools (yes I will take a photo and post when there is a trailer parked there overnight).
I voiced the concern that while this project looks great, it provides no real access to the riverfront for the community at large. The vast majority of us will never row, but we would love a pavilion area for bbq’s and social events. Also, don’t run out and buy a jet ski or plan to dock your fishing boat at the boathouse, private boats and jet skis will not be permitted.
The big question to me is whether a community rowing program is wanted or needed. Conshohocken has very few children, that actually live in the Borough, and rowing is not something many people get into post-college. I do think people will rent canoes and kayaks for recreation if they are available. I do think pavilions along the river are highly desirable. I have a sneaking suspicion the last thing the schools want on the river is a bunch of recreational canoes, kayaks and small fishing boats. But Borough Council must consider how the residents want to utilize the riverfront.
Another thing to consider, there is an existing boathouse in Whitemarsh at the Whitemarsh/Conshy line. From what I could gather is that no one from the Borough side has spoke to any of these rowers, clubs, etc. to gather info on what is currently happening on the river. When are the dozens of boats that are located there on the river? What impact will an increased level of recreational kayaks and canoes have regarding safety, etc. It has also not been discussed on how the Borough would pay for a community rowing program. It appeared to me that the idea was to approve it now and figure everything out later.
Since this is being sold as a project for the community, with community being defined as residents of the Borough of Conshohocken, I am concerned as to who may end up utilizing the boathouse. Basically the plan is to have “members” pay a small fee like they do at the Fellowship House. The Fellowship House, a Borough managed facility, allows non-residents to become members. Since there is only so much space in the boathouse, are we going to limit its use to only residents?
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good project, but there is a ton of discussion to be had (which I think the Borough and schools realize). Once I have some details on any community meetings, committees, etc., I will post.