Fort Wayne Parks taking bids for canoe/kayak rental business at planned riverfront park

June 26th, 2017

By Kevin Kilbane | The News-Sentinel

The Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department is seeking proposals from businesses that want to operate a canoe and kayak rental service in the new downtown riverfront park. A business already providing that service in that area hopes they don't get sunk in the process.

"I'm hoping we win it," Cara Hall, co-owner of Fort Wayne Outfitters & Bike Depot with her husband, Tim, said of the city's request for proposals from business that want to provide the rental service. "Otherwise, we probably will be gone."

The proposals are due by 11 a.m. July 14, it said in bid documents on the city's website.  The parks department likely will ask the board of park commissioners at their August or September board meeting to approve accepting the best proposal, said Mark Becker, parks department deputy director of riverfront.

Parks officials will look at factors including pricing, business plan and vendor experience when evaluating the proposals, Becker said. The bidder selected will have exclusive rights to provide boat rental in the new Promenade Park, which will be located on the north and south banks of the St. Marys River between the Historic Wells Street Bridge and Harrison Street.

Groundbreaking on park construction is set for 11 a.m. June 29, with completion planned by early 2019.

Parks staff believe it is important to have a canoe/kayak rental business in the new park, Becker said.

"We want to do everything we can to encourage more people to experience being on the river," he said.

Riverfront parks in other cities all offer some form of "boat" rental, he added.

Fort Wayne Parks' request for proposals specifically mentions it wants the business to provide canoe and kayak rental, but the bidder also can offer paddleboards, paddleboats or other watercraft, Becker said. The proposals also must address how the business will rent and store its boats, which may mean it will need some type of building.

The business also will be responsible for basic maintenance and cleaning of the dock area on the north side of the St. Marys River, where the boat rental business will be located, Becker said.

That location places it right next to Fort Wayne Outfitters, 1004 Cass St., which has operated its canoe, kayak and bike sales and rental business for 10 years, Hall said. The business is located just outside the riverfront park development area.

Becker said he hopes Fort Wayne Outfitters will be among the businesses submitting business proposals, and Hall confirmed they will be.

She understands why the city needs to go through the process of seeking business proposals for watercraft rental in the riverfront park. But it would be "pretty devastating" to have a competitor open up in their front yard, she added.

Fort Wayne Outfitters already is bracing for the impact on its business from riverfront park construction, she said. For about 18 months, the city will close off the business' current access to the river, rivergreenway trail and the Historic Wells Street and Harrison Street bridges.

It will be a rough 18 months for the business, Hall added, but the resulting riverfront park will be worth it for the community.

Categories Quality of Life