“We’re excited about this new aspect,” said Niki Cross, Ernsthausen Recreation Center recreation director. “This provides a whole new thing for the community to enjoy.”
Thanks to fundraising by the non-profit organization Restore Norwalk, the center now has 10 canoes, along with the accompanying paddles and lifejackets, available to be rented. The canoes are being stored outside of Shelter 3 at the reservoir, which is near the south entrance of the park, near Executive Drive. There’s a lock on each canoe, which has its own number. Keys can be picked up at the rec center for a rental fee of $10 a day.
Canoes are available from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, when they must be returned by 8:30 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, when they must be returned by 6:30 p.m. On Sundays, they are available from noon until 4 p.m. and must be returned by 5:30 p.m.
Cross said former Restore Norwalk organizer Stephanie Spencer was the driving force behind getting the canoes for the community.
Spencer has since stepped down from the organizations board.
“She is just so passionate,” Cross said.
“She just cares so much about how this community feels. It’s nice to see somebody that’s passionate about the community and what their needs are. She communicates with the community through Facebook and everybody said they want to see canoes at the reservoir. She said, ‘This is first goal, and I’m going to make it happen,’ and she did.”
Cross said EHOVE Career Center made the rack that holds them.
By organizing several fundraising events, Restore Norwalk paid for the everything involved with the canoe purchases, leaving the Ernsthausen center just in charge of manning the business side of it, Cross said.
“We’re already talking about adding kayaks too,” Cross said. “We’ve already just had a lot of fun seeing how excited the community is. We’re excited about it and I think it’s going to be great.”
Each canoe will seat up to three people, or hold up to 680 pounds. It is required that at least one adult age 18 years or older be on each rented canoe.
What’s the next big endeavor for the rec center?
“A skating rink,” Cross said. “Restore Norwalk is looking into the possibility of adding a skating rink down at Sofios Park. That’s still a work in progress and they’d still have to do the fundraising, but they have something planned and are looking into it. That’s our next goal we’re working toward.”
Other sponsors of the new program include Firelands Chevrolet Buick, Miller's Grocery Store, Maple City Firearms, Ace Hardware, Revolutionary Insulation, JDB Home Improvement, Nobil's Sports & Trophies, Berrys Restaurant and Todd Lillo/Union Mortgage