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Anchors Aweigh: City Wants Sailboats in Byrd Park

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Avast, ye scurvy landlubbers! The city wants to make seafarin' — er, pondfarin' — men and women out o' ye.

The city of Richmond is searching for a company to provide rental sailboats and sailing lessons on Swan Lake. The 13-acre lake, which has a small island in its center, is the largest of the three in Byrd Park.

Mayor Dwight Jones announced in July 2010 that human-powered boats would be allowed on all of Byrd Park's lakes — although Swan Lake, true to its name, is occupied by more waterfowl than watercraft.

The city is searching for a company to provide at least five small sailboats for rentals and lessons on Swan Lake. - SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist
  • The city is searching for a company to provide at least five small sailboats for rentals and lessons on Swan Lake.

"It seems pretty small to learn how to sail," says Linda Pierce, immediate past commodore of the Greater Richmond Sailing Association. For 15 years the association has taught children and adults how to sail on Chesterfield County's Swift Creek Reservoir, which is 6 miles long.

The city proposes to make boat rentals available from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays from May through September. If the weather proves balmy, the contractor could open in April and stay open through November.

Private weekday lessons would cost $75 per hour; group lessons, $175 for three hours. Renting a boat would cost $35 for two hours or $55 for four hours. An experienced sailor could manage a small craft in the lake, Pierce says, "but you'd be doing a lot of back and forth."

Bids were due Jan. 23 for a company with at least five years of experience in sailboat rentals to operate the seasonal concession. It's part of the parks department's new foray into activities that will generate revenue, the bid guidelines say. The company that wins the bid will pay the city an annual fee of $1,000 for the right to operate the concession.

The city is requiring the company to provide at least five sailboats, each no longer than 12 feet, as well as life vests, other equipment and a "Chase Boat" that can be used to rescue sailors who capsize on the stormy seas. Er, pond.

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