The Kayak Adventure program through Leland Parks and Recreation is a unique and exciting program that provides its participants with a wide array of benefits. In this interview with Amy Wells, Leleand’s Recreation Supervisor, she discusses the work that goes on behind the scenes to run the program, as well as all of the fun to be had by participants. There will also be a link at the end to their programs page.
What inspired you to create the Kayak Adventure Program?
We aimed to expand our department’s environmental offerings and looked towards the amazing natural resources in our area. We began to explore local partnerships with area kayak guide companies.
2. Can you give us a brief overview of how the program is run?
We partner with a local kayak adventure company to guide all of our trips. We coordinate registration, payment, and communication with participants. Our partner, Mahanaim Adventures, facilitates the trip experience, providing all kayaking and safety equipment and guiding us along each adventure.
3. How did you find the company that you have a contract with?
Don Harty from Mahanaim Adventures had been a partner on a previous community program. He also saw room for this programming opportunity and reached out to propose a partnership. This coincided with the opening of a new park, Cypress Cove Park (then Sturgeon Creek Park), with water access and an accessible kayak launch which was a great jumping off point for the Kayak Adventure programming.
4. How do you promote this program to the public?
We promote this program primarily through social media and our semi-annual printed activity guide. We also get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals from participants of past trips.
5. Who is your target market?
Everyone! We aim to offer trips for everyone from the beginner kayaker to a more advanced paddler and at all ages! We regularly have senior paddlers in their sixties and seventies, and this fall will be adding a family friendly trip to encourage parents and their children to paddle together.
6. How long has this program been running?
This program has been active since 2014
7. What are the benefits for the participants?
Our kayak adventures give participants a great opportunity to connect with their environment and get a little exercise. It’s also a wonderful way for newcomers to our area to meet new friends. And some of our trips can be as much of a mental experience as a physical one – our recent 12-mile trip into Three Sisters Swamp on the Black River was beautiful, educational, and took as much mental strength as physical!
8. Are there any challenges or obstacles that you have overcome with this program?
Our biggest obstacle is definitely the weather – but not always in the way you might think. Certainly if it is thundering and lightening, we won’t go on our excursion. However, our guide Don keeps an eye on the weather several days in advance and several counties and even states away depending on the body of water we’ll be travelling. Sometimes we need to cancel on a beautiful sunny day because the water levels are too high or too low. We’ve also seen considerable challenges following recent Hurricanes Florence and Matthew. The rainwater and storm debris travelling downriver created a long lasting effect on our area’s waterways that will be felt for years to come.
9. What has been the biggest success of this program? Or what do you consider success for this program?
We see great success when we are able to watch residents connect with their natural surroundings and give them a new experience. Many of our residents and participants are new to our area and new to North Carolina and it’s exciting to watch them connect with the natural beauty of our state in this way! We have many brand new kayakers and we love helping give them the experience of kayaking safely for the first time. And of course, we love watching neighbors and community members come together!
10. How do you measure that success?
We measure success, in part, through consistently well attended programs, including many repeat participants.
11. How do you plan to make the program or how is the program sustainable?
We strive to offer unique and exciting opportunities for paddlers that go beyond our everyday backyard paddles, like Three Sisters Swamp and sunset paddles to Shark Tooth Island. We continuously reach out to our participants for feedback to ensure that we are exceeding their expectations.