Many years ago when I decided to get serious about rowing, I stumbled upon the Susquehanna Rowing Association just as it was forming. This was great, because they were going to be based in Harrisburg, where I was living at the time.
They ended up negotiating with the city to occupy part of the City Island Bath House, on what was then a near abandoned no-mans’ land frequented by mostly gay men engaging in illicit sex. The place had quite a reputation, and the club was considered a “trail-blazer” when it came to the whole City Island resurgance.
On a scale of 1 to 10, the basin around City Island rated about a 5 when it comes to rowing conditions. The big problem is the fluxuating water level: anything over 5′ would mean a current that was too fast to row safely, and anything under 2′ would expose too many rocks to rip off a skeg (fin) or break open a hull.
This presented a disadvantage for a competitive rower, because the spring rains would delay the start of training well after other rowing centers on the east coast. Still, I managed to work it out and was usually ready by mid-June for the late summer regattas. The rowing club grew to over 70 members, most of whom were recreational, but still content to get out on the water for a great workout.
Eventually, Steve Reed got his ballpark and blinky lights on the bridge, and other boaters discovered the basin. Fortunately, most of the boating took place later in the day, after most rowers had finished and were off the water…until the world discovered jetskis.
These craft became an instant hit with younger men seeking thrills, speed, and something more affordable and portable than a run-about. For a while, it even became a sanctioned sport with races around a bouyed course and stunt riding. Almost immediately, the basin was filled dawn to dusk and after with jetskiers, travelling much faster than the typical john boat or pontoon patio. They could cover a lot of territory fast, and their wakes constantly stirred up the surface.
Jetskis killed rowing on City Island.
So I’m a little chagrined at the reaction in the press recently to the passage of Pennsylvania’s “Four Foot Law.” It seems to have stirred up a hornet’s nest with the Monster Truck crowd who feel that bicycles are somehow taking over. They think bikes should “stay on the sidewalks where they belong”, and some have gone as far as to post veiled threats about running bikes off the road.
I don’t consider myself a bicycling advocate – I just like to ride, and I use as much common sense as possible about when and where I ride. I like trails, but I believe in the concept of co-existance – both cars and bikes using the same infrastructure with modifications.
So the whole jetski history has me sensitive to one group crowding out another. The last time, I ended up moving my family, and the whole rowing club, to another location to a spot where jetskis aren’t permitted.
I’m not going to move this time.
I’ll continue to use common sense, follow the rules of the road, and be courteous; but heaven help the first fool that thinks he can ban bikes from the street.
Consider this my line in the sand.