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Plans for downtown Petaluma boating facilities move forward

Petaluma boating advocates are nearing a longstanding goal of building a floating boat rental facility in the turning basin, even as a more ambitious boathouse project take shape along the Petaluma River.

The docks for the Floathouse project will be installed this fall at the site near Taps where pilings were driven last year, according to Greg Sabourin, executive director of the Petaluma Small Craft Center. After that, a small tented office will be added next spring with opening slated for summer 2020.

“Getting the docks in, that will be a benchmark of progress,” Sabourin said, adding that the nonprofit needs to raise $60,000 to purchase the remaining dock segments.

The Floathouse project, in a high traffic area of downtown, is designed to attract people to the river and get them excited about paddling, Sabourin said. The rental kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and other human-powered boats, will also generate revenue for the nonprofit’s bigger project, a multi-million dollar boathouse at the Riverfront development near the Highway 101 bridge.

The group is close to signing a lease with Caltrans for land under the bridge, Sabourin said. Recently completed architectural renderings show a two-story 20,000-square-foot facility with three boat bays on the bottom for storage and an enclosed workshop for repairs.

Upstairs, there will be space for indoor training, restrooms with showers, office space and, potentially, a revenue-generating cafe, Sabourin said. The boathouse is envisioned as a headquarters for the many rowing and outrigger canoe clubs that train on the Petaluma River.

“One project isn’t enough for a small nonprofit like us,” Sabourin said.

Sabourin didn’t have estimates on the cost of the boathouse, but said it would be in the millions of dollars. The next step will be to do a soil analysis of the property and determine the type of foundation that will be necessary. In the meantime, the nonprofit will be working with the city on planning and permitting the construction phase.

All told, the boathouse is probably four to seven years from opening, Sabourin said.

“If someone writes a $5 million check because they love rowing, then we could open in three years,” he said.

To support this vision, the group is planning a lengthy fundraising campaign, staring with its Fools for the River event on April 3. For $41, participants get a ticket good for a dish at four of 10 participating Petaluma restaurants, which include 4th & Sea, Sugo Trattoria (lunch only), Gator’s, Red Brick, River Front Cafe, Water Street Bistro, Dempsey’s, TAPS, Brewster’s and Seared.

Tickets are available at petalumasmallcraftcenter.org.

As the Floathouse takes shape and the boathouse plans are finalized, Sabourin said the dream is becoming more tangible.

“We are excited,” he said. “I’d always want things to happen quicker, but we’re dealing with government agencies and that takes time. But it’s much more real now. This really will be a jewel on the river.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)

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