BELLINGHAM - Come this time in October, the Whatcom Rowing Association likely will have a brand new boathouse at Bloedel Donovan Park.
Those who visited the park earlier this week may have noticed workers digging out an area on the Electric Avenue side by the volleyball courts for the 22-by-90-foot building, which will house about a dozen longboats, with room for more boats in outside storage.
Groundbreaking and excavation work were finished by Wednesday, Aug. 6, said Bob Diehl, WRA president. Crews should start pouring a foundation next week, and then move on to the concrete floor and the wooden building. The project should be done around Oct. 1.
"This will really be great for us," Diehl said. "We need a building where we can keep our boats inside to stay dry. We can also keep exercise equipment there, and we will have a maintenance area."
Currently, the rowing association stores its boats outside year round, leaving them exposed to rain, wind and mud.
The project was about two years in the making, with shoreline permitting, public presentations, and several redesigns, all of which were made possible by donated time from designers, engineers, lawyers and others who wanted to see the project through, Diehl said.
The nonprofit rowing association is paying for the building with private donations and will lease the park space from the city, Diehl said.
"We're not using any tax dollars," Diehl said. "That is pretty significant. We are, of course, still asking for donations."
The association currently rents a room in the park's community building, which will be freed up for other city use once the boathouse is done.
About 50 kids and teens and 30 or 40 adults are currently members of the association, which is open to the public, Diehl said.
WRA charges fees and membership to pay for equipment, insurance and coaches, Diehl said. Those numbers currently work out to about $10 per session.
"The rowing community is outstanding," Diehl said. "To get support for this project has been the most rewarding thing I've ever done in my life."
To find schedules, contact information and to learn how to get involved with the association, go to whatcomrowing.org.