Mansfield Parks & Recreation’s Kayaking 101 allows participants to dip their toes in the water – figuratively, of course – before deciding whether to invest in the gear needed to take up the relaxing outdoor activity.
The city’s course provides kayaks, paddles, safety equipment and instruction several times a year, allowing anyone age 7 or older to hit the water on Joe Pool Lake or Lake Arlington and experience nature from a different point of view.
“This program has been very popular over the years because it offers a unique nature experience that you do not get by taking a walk on the trails,” says Tiffany Chrzanowski, Mansfield’s Nature Education Supervisor. “We get to experience the wildlife within the forest as we travel down the creek.”
That’s part of the reason Mansfield’s Parks and Recreation Department chose to add kayaking to its award-winning parks system, according to Recreation Superintendent Andy Binz. The city offers the activity at Mansfield’s Britton Park and added Arlington’s Bowman Springs as a site this year.
“We were looking to expand our outdoor programs, and kayaking offered a good opportunity to do that,” he says.
Classes start with the basics on shore. First come instructions on how to hold the paddles, use of safety vests and whistles and other safety facets. Then staff pairs participants in the stable two-person watercraft, ensuring that they’re comfortable before moving forward.
Paddlers get a rare glimpse of nature on the tour, which stays close to the bank along what Binz calls the “passive” part of Joe Pool Lake.
“We see great blue heron nests each spring with their hatchlings poking their head out of the nests,” Chrzanowski says. “We also see many ducks, egrets, kingfishers, vultures, turtles, bullfrogs and much more.”
Before adding Kayaking 101 to its menu of activities, The Parks and Recreation staff contacted other cities to determine staffing needs, equipment requirements and pricing details, Binz says. Once the program was established, it quickly outgrew the original six kayaks.
“The response was so overwhelming that we added more kayaks so we could accommodate more people,” Binz says.
Among the courses the city offers are Birding By Boat, Kayaking with Dad and Kayaking with Mom. Most classes take place on Saturdays or Sundays and are open to Girl Scout or Boy Scout groups as well as individuals or families. Costs start at $22 per person with pre-registration required.
Chrzanowski says Mansfield hopes to expand Kayaking 101 to other locations in the area, and sees it as a great starting point for families.
“Many guests do not want to invest in kayaks before seeing if their family will enjoy kayaking,” she says. “Our tour gives them that opportunity, as well as talking with our experienced staff about kayaking options that they can purchase for their family.”
For more information or to register, visitmansfieldtexas.gov/event/8596/kayaking-101-7y.