Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team founder and current head coach Alan Anderson has been working to find the team a permanent home for more than a decade.
It appears as though his dream will soon become a reality.
At a Gig Harbor City Council work session on June 19, the Council gave the city direction to move forward with pursuing leases with GHCKRT and the Gig Harbor junior sail program for Ancich Park.
GHCKRT will likely occupy 1,400 square feet of the structure.
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The city has all the local and state permits, and has nearly finished the federal permitting process. The city will rehabilitate the existing netshed and pier. The park will also include space for commercial fishing, mainly loading and unloading areas for nets and net mending.
“It will be the only publicly owned netshed utilized for its intended purpose,” Gig Harbor’s Parks Project Administrator Katrina Knutson said. “We have netsheds as museums, restaurants, etc. This one will be a living, breathing place for people to see history in action.”
But back to the canoe and kayak team. The team, which blossomed into a national power under Anderson’s direction, will welcome the development perhaps more than any other tenant. Ancich is slated to open between May and June of 2018. The site will have a boat storage building, which the team will be able to use to store its boats and a space to launch out of for practices.
“It’s been such a hard struggle to get this thing done,” Anderson said. “Last week’s meeting was surreal to me. One councilperson after another voted for the best option for Ancich Park. And we’re part of that option.”
That means no more using Skansie Park, which is one of the city’s most heavily used public spaces.
“Ancich Park has been a dream of ours forever,” said 17-year-old GHCKRT coach Rylee Price. “Having a place to call home, launch, get the kids in the water without irritating the yachts or crashing into them, is always a good thing. We can have space to spread out, do technical drills on land without sitting on top of someone’s lunch on the picnic table. All sorts of stuff. So that’s exciting. It was something that was talked about a lot.”
And it means Skansie Brothers Park will presumably be a little less crowded. That includes the park itself, traffic around it and general foot traffic from the team’s young paddlers.
“We believe that will be a large benefit not only for general park users, but also for traffic and parking,” Knutson said. “The cars and traffic and parking the club takes up quite a bit of the park. We think residents will see a decrease in the cluster there.”
In addition to the mentioned improvements to Ancich, the park will also boast a 2,300-square-foot viewing platform on top of the boat storage building, which will sit at sidewalk level, picnic tables, benches as well as a state-of-the-art rain garden system.
The biggest hurdles are now in the rearview mirror. Mostly now, it’s paperwork and discussing terms and conditions. It’s a major win for the Gig Harbor Canoe and Kayak Race Team.
In addition, the 2018 USA Sprint Canoe/Kayak National Championships appear likely to be headed to Seattle. Although it hasn’t yet been finalized, Anderson said he’s “85 percent” sure the 2018 Nationals will head to Seattle.
So that means the 2018 summer will not only present GHCKRT with a new home, but a local national championship competition as well.
“Early on, when I first started this team, I told the kids that they were pioneers, and it would be through all their hard work and effort that someday, there will be a home built for this program in Gig Harbor,” Anderson said. “But they had to work hard and accomplish great things. So I want to reach out to all those pioneers and have them come paddle for our team (in Seattle). As soon as I get word that it’ll be in Seattle, I’m going to contact everyone that has been in this program and have them come celebrate the fact that the hard work that went on during the early years has accomplished a home for Gig Harbor, and have them be part of a national championship team.”