Although the first day brought few visitors, Hans Reichgelt can picture Lake Lodge packed with eager boaters this summer.
Reichgelt, recreational supervisor for the Winona Park and Recreation Department, managed the first day of free canoe and kayak rentals at Lake Lodge in Winona, Minn., June 7. New to the dozens of services offered by the Park and Rec Department, boat rentals will be available to all community members for no fee every week, Monday through Friday 4:30 p.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday 7 a.m.-11 a.m.
"We've got the lake; we might as well be able to use it fully," Reichgelt said.
According to Park and Rec Program Director Julie Fassbender, the organization received the boats as a donation from Wenonah Canoe to use during the summer months. For several years, Wenonah Canoe has allowed the department to rent canoes and kayaks for children's summer programs and camps, and so often, community members wanted to join in on the fun.
"We always had people coming up and asking, 'Can we use these?' so we thought, we could ask [Wenonah Canoe] to use the canoes for more events," she said. "There's a sense of elatement when people here about this free service."
Depending on the availability, interested boaters can rent the canoes or kayaks for up to four hours at a time, and closer to 30 minutes per session during peak hours. Anyone 18 years old or over needs only to sign a waiver each time they ride; 16 and 17-year-olds need parents to sign for them but then are allowed to boat without parents' supervision. Children 15 years old or under are required to be accompanied by an adult.
The Park and Rec Department supplies life jackets and paddles in addition to the canoe or kayak rental.
"All you need to bring is the shirt on your back--not even, I guess," Reichgelt joked.
Participants need not have experience, yet Reichgelt said there are basic rules that he goes over before boaters hit the water.
"You can come and try it out," he said. "It's pretty simple--don't stand up and you should be fine."
Due to popularity of opening Lake Lodge as a winter hang out this past season, Fassbender said the energy behind building a sense of ambiance and fun around the building is continuing into the summer months.
"The intention is to create that kind of environment and excitement for people in the summer," she said.
While interested boaters are waiting their turn on the lake as popularity grows, Reichgelt said there will be opportunities for community members to play ping-pong, tug of war, soccer and listen to records playing inside the lodge.
"Basically, just come down and have a good time," he said. "I think people will really enjoy it."