Imagine taking a guided kayak trip along the Connecticut River at sunset or under the light of a full moon. Or plying the waters of the river for the first time on a paddle board or kayak.
The town has reached an agreement with L.L. Bean to host one of the Freeport, Maine, company's "Outdoor Discovery Schools" at Riverfront Park from late spring through early fall. The Glastonbury school will offer kayaking and paddle board lessons and guide people out on the river. There will also be sunset and full moon kayaking cruises.
Parks and recreation director Raymond Purtell said the town has been trying to bring an outdoor recreation component to the park since its opening. Spaces on kayak storage racks have sold out and more are being brought in. Purtell said the town has tried to find an outfitter to rent kayaks from the park in the past, but most of them wanted to stay at their own facility.
"It's a win-win for them and for us," he said of teaming up with L.L. Bean. "It increases our public access to the water and showcases our fabulous natural resources we have here on the river ... This is a good starting point. They have well-qualified staff, equipment and the right level of comfort and their outdoor schools have done really well."
Town Manager Richard J. Johnson said he continues to look at opportunities for generating revenue and making use of Riverfront Park. He said the town will receive $3,500 from L.L. Bean for access to the site as well as profit sharing over certain thresholds.
Johnson said there shouldn't be any conflicts with the use of the boat launch and boathouse as participants will be asked to park at the larger lot to the east of the baseball field with river activities taking place far from the launching area.
"We've had some folks ask if we could run these classes and this is a nice way to provide very competent instruction and generate small revenue to the town ... They understand there are certain times and certain requirements we have for use of the boathouse. I wouldn't anticipate any issues there. If there are, we will respond. They've been very cooperative," Johnson said.
L.L. Bean spokesman Mac McKeever said the adventure series has been around since 1979 and the company looks to partner with communities near its stores. L.L. Bean has a store at Evergreen Walk in South Windsor. The program started as in-store demos, but has expanded to allow people to experience the outdoors.
"We are offering a broad range of activities to kind of demystify nature and empower people to get outside," he said. "We are kind of removing the barriers to participation. In Glastonbury, we have a large body of water and we can offer more programs."
Starting May 27 and running through the summer and early fall, L.L. Bean will offer a number of classes at the park including kayaking and standup paddle boarding. The minimum age for both is 8 and anyone 14 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Prices are $25 and include use of a kayak or board and a flotation device. Most of the programs take place on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.
There will also be several kayaking trips, including sunset kayaking and full moon kayaking trips. Organizers said that after a short paddling demonstration, an experienced guide "will lead you on a revealing tour, sharing interesting facts about the area's history and surrounding landscape." These trips are $59.
Recreation director William H. Engle said classes will be kept small to "make sure it is a safe situation on the river." Paddle board classes will be up to five with kayaking 12 to 14 participants.
Participants can sign up for classes by visiting www.llbean.com/southwindsor or calling 1-888-552-3261 for more information. Registration is also available at the South Windsor store.