The Village of Champlain, New York, in partnership with Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) is launching a rowing program for youth and adults on the Great Chazy River and Lake Champlain. Janet McFetridge, a retired school teacher and current trustee in Champlain, New York, has spearheaded the effort with the help of volunteers Aaron Merrill and Bill Wrye together with Mayor Greg Martin and Village Superintendent Mike Jolicoeur. Community members responded with enthusiasm during the summer, and rowing opportunities continue into the fall. “Team rowing is a safe, supportive and fun way for people to get out on Lake Champlain,” says Ms. McFetridge. “More than 450 students and adults are out rowing on the open waters of the lake each year, and we are excited to have Champlain Village join this growing movement.”
(above) Rowers from Champlain, NY rowing on the Great Chazy River in “Triton”, a thirty-two foot pilot gig built at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.
In June, LCMM delivered a 32 foot long, six-oared pilot gig rowing boat to Bill Earl Park on the Great Chazy River in the heart of the village of Champlain. This location was the site of a major boatbuilding industry during the nineteenth century. Community members met regularly for rowing during the summer, and a four-oared 25’ Whitehall-style rowing boat was brought to the park in August to serve the growing number of participants.
At a recent training session provided by LCMM staff, over 20 people from the region came to learn how to row a 32’ pilot gig. As school begins, Janet McFetridge is working to recruit area youth from Northeastern Clinton Central Middle and High Schools for the rowing program in Champlain. The teens have had an initial practice and word about this unique opportunity is starting to spread. “Both individual skill and coordinated teamwork are needed,” explains Nick Patch, LCMM’s Outdoor Education Director, who founded Champlain Longboats. “Rowing can appeal to students who are not involved in other extra-curricular activities.” Both youth and adults from the Champlain area will be able to participate in competitions sponsored by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum on Lake Champlain. “We hope to see some friendly, cross-lake competition in the annual rowing meets hosted by the Museum. It would be great to have a New York team at the James Wakefield Rescue Row in October,” says Ms. McFetridge, “and by next year we might be ready to travel to Boston Harbor.”
(above) Rowers from Champlain, NY on the Great Chazy River.
The colorful rowing boats used in this program are built by area high school students at the LCMM boat shop in what is known as the Champlain Longboats program. LCMM has built nineteen boats with area youth since 1999. Thirteen of the boats are actively used in LCMM’s Champlain Longboats program for youth after school rowing, the Museum’s adult Community Rowing Club, and in regional competitions. The other six boats are being used in similar programs around New England. One of the Champlain Longboats was recently purchased by the United States Navy for use by the crew of the U. S. Constitution, and a whaleboat built by the Champlain Longboats program has traveled with the whaleship Charles W. Morgan.
This project was funded by an agreement (P14AC01016) awarded by the United States National Park Service (NPS) to the New England interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) in partnership with the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership. NEIWPCC manages CVNHP’s personnel, contract, grant, and budget tasks, and provides input on the program’s activities. The viewpoints expressed here do not necessarily represent those of NEIWPCC, CVNHP, LCBP, NPS, or the U. S. Government, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or causes constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.