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David and Anna Scharff bring their paddleboard rentals back to the pier underneath the Market Street Bridge on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Employees of SUP Paddleboards carry the boards to and from the river.
Simply put, there should be more access to such a large resource for activity.
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David and Anna Scharff bring their paddleboard rentals back to the pier underneath the Market Street Bridge on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Employees of SUP Paddleboards carry the boards to and from the river.
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David and Anna Scharff bring their paddleboard rentals back to the pier underneath the Market Street Bridge on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Employees of SUP Paddleboards carry the boards to and from the river.

There is no shortage of flat-water paddling destinations in the Chattanooga area to keep kayakers, canoers and stand-up paddleboarders entertained, but there is room to improve the accessibility of those sports in the city's core, local enthusiasts say.

Now, the primary launch point for flat-water paddlers in the North Shore area is at Coolidge Park, underneath the Market Street Bridge. Otherwise, entry points to the Tennessee River remain limited.

"Simply put, there should be more access to such a large resource for activity," said Evan O'Lannerghty, a four-year employee of L2 Outside, which rents paddleboards and other hand-carried watercraft at the corner of Market and First streets.

Part of the long-term renovation plan for Ross's Landing on the South Side of the River includes the installation of a permanent gangway onto a floating dock downriver from the pier. That's an ideal location for paddleboarders to enter the river because the current is rarely strong there, said Phillip Grimes, director of Outdoor Chattanooga.

But completion of that project remains years away, while paddleboarding rises in popularity and downtown's population increases. There's also this issue of demand for storage of hand-carried watercraft.

A plan proposed by the city's former parks and recreation director, Larry Zehnder, would have increased river access at Ross's Landing and brought storage units to the area. That didn't materialize after Andy Berke succeeded Ron Littlefield as mayor.

"It can be done easily," said Mark Baldwin, owner of L2 Outside. He said lots of people on the south side of the river would love to paddleboard, but don't have storage "and a ton of people who work down there that would utilize it, too."

The ramp used by the Chattanooga Ducks land-to-water vehicle is usable, but it's mossy, which could be a slippery danger for people toting personal watercraft, according to Randy Whorton, director of Wild Trails. Whorton has done research on what water access is like in other cities.

"A hand-carried watercraft is becoming really popular, and it's going to continue to be so," Whorton said. "We really need something."

Baldwin said he offered to operate a hand-carried watercraft storage facility for the city and even had an architect draw up a plan, but the effort gained no traction.

For now, his business uses a boat dock underneath the south side of the Market Street bridge that, beyond a certain point, is accessible only by boats.

"What's aggravating is that it's a really popular sport," Baldwin said of paddleboarding. The city "can build bike racks all over town, devote plenty of resources for these other things people are doing, and they haven't spent $150 on helping this sport."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at 423-757-6249 or dcobb@timesfree press.com.

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