I cannot tell you how many phone calls, emails, texts, and fb messages I have received from friends, family and complete strangers, wanting to know: “What’s the deal with the Port of Newburgh? What’s going to happen to the Newburgh Rowing Club?” I finally asked my brother from another mother, Coach Kennedy, to take the reigns off of me and let me give some kind of 411 out to my Readers. He has agreed. Here is the short answer: Nothing. As in, according to the Powers that Be, nothing will happen to the Newburgh Rowing Club, if the Port of Newburgh comes to pass. Generations of rowers will continue to enjoy rowing in the City of Newburgh through the Newburgh Rowing Club for many years to come.
But first, for the uninitiated, let me explain how the Newburgh Rowing Club came to be located where is currently sits, at the Ward Brothers Memorial Park, at the foot of Renwick Street, on the Hudson River. Big Coach founded the NRC 25 years ago. Ten years ago, the NRC was rowing out of Orange Lake, in the Town of Newburgh. The City asked Big Coach to bring the rowing club into the City of Newburgh. A few properties were discussed and he chose the present location, which was a great surprise to everyone. Why? It was essentially a garbage dump. In the process of my grant writing, I had to go through the NRC archives. I was astounded at what I found.
Dozens, if not hundreds, of volunteers, rowers, their families, and the coaches, spent years clearing the garbage out of that area. Taylor Recycling donated dumpster after dumpster to haul away the debris. Among the notable items taken away according to the archives were: hundreds of tree trunks; a rusted motor boat; several rusted cars; engines; an apparent small aircraft propeller; “bodies” (presumably animals); countless pieces of furniture; and “a dozen porcelain toilets”.
Once cleared, volunteers spent a good 8 years of their life building the present 6,000 square foot structure, which is still being improved upon as we speak. The Boathouse, as it is affectionately known to rowers is Home to so many. It is owned by no one and everyone. The south wall was built by USMC Cpl. Joseph Tremblay and his Marine buddies, in the Fall of 2004, right before Joey went back to the Marines and was deployed to Iraq, during the “Surge.” It was the last time Big Coach, who had coached Joey from age 11 – 17, ever saw him. Joey was killed in Iraq in April of 2005. The rowing club erected a flagpole in Joey’s memory which was dedicated to him by Father Bill and Senator Larkin, with a full US Marine Color Guard in 2012. We have held an annual event at the Boathouse every year to honor his memory.
Personally, I first came down to the Boathouse in 2010. And I have never left. That’s kind of what happens down there. Until you have been out on the water yourself and actually rowed out of the Newburgh Rowing Boathouse, you will never understand what that place means to those who call it home. And if Yankee Stadium is the House that Ruth built, then the Newburgh Rowing Club Boathouse, which houses a fleet of over 40 crew shells, from singles to the mighty 60-foot long 8-mans, and a fleet of over 35 kayaks, is the House that Coach Kennedy and Leif Stepakoff built.
What I have done with the Student Ambassador program is really my wish and dream fulfilled. And having his first rowers come back to rower with their children is Coach Kennedy’s dream fulfilled. Here’s the thing you need to understand about Coach Kennedy, that is unlike any coach you are going to meet. Although he is the senior coach in the Hudson Valley Rowing League, he couldn’t care less about medals. He has already won everything there is to be won, from a NYS Championship to Gold at the Empire Games. He cares about getting kids in the water. Period. It’s that simple.
There is a lot of blood, sweat and tears all over that Boathouse, all over the docks and the crew shells. They belong to many rowers and parents, some of whom are no longer with us here on Earth. To me, to my kids, to my rowing kids whom I love so much. Here’s the thing about rowers. They just want to row. It’s not like soccer or baseball, you show up, you suit up, you play. So much goes in behind the scenes to making sure the boats go out, that the boats go on the trailer. You have to de-rig so you can load them on the trailer, then when you arrive at your destination, you unload the boats, get out your tools and rig the boats again. To leave your destination, you have to de-rig your boats and guess what, when you get back to the Boathouse, the next practice is spent rigging them again.
Here’s what I know for sure, or what we have been told by the Powers that Be: Spring Crew Season, the Summer Rowing Season, and Summer Rowing Camp will all go off right here at the Boathouse. After that, we will continue to row here in the City of Newburgh. And in the end, that’s all the rowers want. They just want to row. And we will. For many generations to come. And that is a beautiful thing.
Have a great day, everyone, and as always, remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo