Effort underway to revive kayaking in Watertown

Updated: Aug. 29, 2019 at 4:47 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - In the early 2000s, the Black River in Watertown was a hub for kayak competitions.

"It was very exciting. We had all this youth from all over the world here. Excitement. Enthusiasm. Restaurants were full. Hotels were full. It was vibrant," said Sara Daniels, a previous organizer of kayak competitions. "We had the first world cup here and we had competitors from over 26 countries."

But organizers of those championships say the city government stopped putting in the effort.

Now, the city manager says restoring kayak tourism is a priority for city council.

City council has added the restorati Black River and trying to figure out how we can resurrect it and make it much more a destination for the city, for tourists, kayaking, so on and so forth, and they're looking at what it would take to restore that famous wave and add to the Black River being once again a major tourism destination," said Rick Finn, city manager.

While the city is conducting a study to see how reasonable fixing the river would be, excitement is growing in the people who used to organize competitions.

"We have a grassroots opportunity to pick up where we left off," said Tom O'Riley, one of those organizers.

"But is does require a commitment. People really have to put their heart and soul into really wanting to do this because it's always going to require maintaining," said Daniels.

They do have hope government officials can do right by the Black River.

They already have a few suggestions.

Daniels and O’Riley are saying look at the YMCA aquatic center project, which is being funded by the state, as an opportunity to re-introduce kayaking as a key part of Watertown. They say if they can incorporate a kayak school into that center, as well as restore the Route 3 wave, Watertown could become once again an international kayaking destination.

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