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    Letter: Charles River Canoe and Kayak important for area’s youth

    Canoers, having rented from Charles River Canoe and Kayak, paddling on the river.
    Bill Polo/Globe Staff/File 2005
    Canoers, having rented from Charles River Canoe and Kayak, paddling on the river.

    Currently living in Greece, I only recently learned that Newton’s Charles River boathouse will change radically (“River boathouse operator loses bid for contract,” May 5). Though half a world away, my heart lies with the boathouse. It was a home during my teenage years. I, along with countless others, owe many of my professional and leadership skills to Larry Smith and staff. When evaluating this change, the public should know how important Charles River Canoe and Kayak has been for the area’s youth.

    From a 14-year-old dockhand to a 20-year-old certified kayak instructor, I developed lifelong skills at the boathouse. (I am 31.) Past experiences teaching kayaking to the public inform my current academic teaching and science-policy outreach. They also lend me a unique perspective about balancing environmental and local business needs for environmental management. The boathouse also provided structure. It was our lives during the summer, and of the constellation of things teenagers will do, paddling boats and chatting on the dock after work were some of the better options.

    Smith and staff provide an invaluable service to many Boston area youth. While S.J. Port (Mass. Dept. Conservation and Recreation) says the change in contract represents the taxpayers’ best interest, I suspect Smith’s and staff’s substantial social investments were overlooked. While the new owners may do a fine job running the business, losing 40 years of community relations and continuity must be considered. In the aforementioned article, Deirdre Fernandes reports that the new contract has not yet been signed. If possible, I urge the state to re-enter contract negotiations to account for Smith’s capital ($30,000 worth) and social investments into the boathouse and community. If not, thank you Charles River Canoe and Kayak and best of luck navigating the next bend.

    Jesse Sayles

    PhD candidate, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University