Community sailing centers are shore side facilities with docks, boats, staff and programs, almost universally run by non-profits, but fully open to and for the benefit of the public. Community sailing centers exist all over the country – begun in 1946 and accelerating in numbers over the last two decades, there are now over 400 identified by US Sailing and 35 accredited to national standards by US Sailing. We in New Orleans are not unique, just late.
Occupying a half acre site leased for 65 years from the City in Municipal Yacht Harbor, it includes 30 (soon to be 50) boats, docks and sailing facilities. It is owned and operated by a Louisiana non-profit and will be run by a professional staff, augmented by temporary instructors. By the fall of 2020, it will present youth, adaptive and adult programs and serve as a home base for college and high school racing, it will have a built in source of those temporary instructors.
The sailors come to the center through our partnerships with established community institutions serving the same populations. It is a fee for service operation, with fees scaled to ability to pay and fees underwritten, where necessary, though foundation, corporate and individual giving.
People in our community with disabilities – cognitive and physical, old and young – and their families are provided the opportunity to sail through the use of specialized accessible boats, specialized transfer equipment and trained staff.
Structured to serve more than 1,200 people per year, the Community Sailing Center’s purpose is to open the Lake and sailing to the whole population of our area, with a particular focus on those who have not had that opportunity previously – inner city youth (typically middle school ages), people of all ages with disabilities and adults precluded by the economic obstacles.
As to youth sailors, particularly those never exposed to boating and the Lake, the benefits include developing independence and self-confidence, as well as communication and teamwork skills. It takes time and effort, all focused on a productive activity, and opens aspects of the world and our community that can expand their horizons.
Over the last decade structured STEM and Environmental Education programs have become embedded in these programs across the country. Our delivery of those US Sailing curricula will be coordinated through a collaboration already established with Tulane, Loyola and the Lake Pontchartrain basin Foundation.
Adaptive sailing (also referred to as universal access) provides meaningful therapeutic value in a safe, exciting and enjoyable manner, accommodating a broad range of physical and cognitive disabilities. It includes family involvement and is time tested and delivered in accord with national standards.
“Instead of acting as the passive beneficiaries of sailing activities, people with disabilities can be direct participants where social interaction and teamwork are promoted in an environment of a sailboat’s cockpit. The integration of these fundamentals reinforces the goals of rehabilitation: independence, communication, identity formation, comprehension, concentration, focus and problem solving in a demanding environment.” Therapy on the Water, Universal Access Sailing at Boston’s Community Boating, Zechel, Du Moulin and Kunicki, Palaestra, Forum of Sport, Physical Education and Recreation for Those With Disabilities (2013).
In the community programs - inner city middle schoolers and people of all ages with disabilities – they will come through established partners whose missions serve the same demographics - YMCA, LOOP, Boys Hope Girls Hope, VA Hospital, Children’s Hospital’s Miracle League, Lighthouse Louisiana and others. Collaborative planning and fundraising. At community sailing centers it is referred to as the “Partnership Model.”
US Sailing’s educator designed modular Reach (STEM & environmental education) Program is currently implemented in over 400 sailing programs nationwide. It will be tailored to us and overseen by a collaboration including Tulane’s K-12 STEM Program, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, Loyola’s Environmental Communications Department and US Sailing.
Tulane does not own the boats or the facility and does not hold the lease. Instead, they pay an annual fee to use the CSNOI facility and boats. When they wish, they bring their own “Angry Wave” sails. But, Tulane is more than the Sailing Team – they also bring the K-12 STEM Program, a pool of temporary instructors and support for the community programs - a strong synergy.
Each college and high school will pay an annual fee for boat and facility use, coordinated by our Executive Director. Tulane is in place, we are working to expand that to the other area universities. We will help foster high school racing by hosting events but can be a home base to only one or two high schools (the yacht clubs sponsor the others).
There will be adult sailing classes. And qualified adults will be able to register to take out the keelboats. Individuals and companies will do that through registration fees and program fees.
This is not a club. No one is a “member” and there is no membership process - open to the public. But, everyone must register so that we can assess and track sailing skill levels and have emergency and ordinary contact information.
Giving girls and women opportunities is an important priority - a great activity to be tackled on equal footing.
This will not be a boat rental business - not enough space, boats or staff. But, to make money to keep program costs down some careful charters to very experienced boaters (like visiting coaches) and to institutions (sailboats for a specific regatta) will be done on a limited and controlled basis.
Thus far we have secured a 65 year site lease, raised $2.1 Million, built a 240 foot bulkhead turning water to land, installed an 1,800 square foot floating dock, gangway and hoist, put in electrical and water service, purchased the first 30 boats and worked with the installation of specially configured floating docks for our keelboat slips (to facilitate adaptive sailing the finger piers have added width and Hoyer Lift sleeves built in), those slips being part of our lease with the City.
The rest of the construction will be completed in February and March - asphalt, sidewalk, fencing, signage docks and slips.
With our half acre site built out and the first 30 boats in place, we will have taken a big first step and will be able to support college and high school racing. More importantly, that Phase I site buildout positions us, at half the cost of Phase I, to carry forward with Phase II, thus fully opening all of the community programs (youth, adaptive and adult) through adding the staff, the next 20 boats, operating capital and temporary buildings.
We have built and equipped the base facility at a cost of $1.6 Million. Phase II’s cost is $800,000 – eight keelboats, ten Optimists, two powerboats, temporary buildings and our Executive Director. We have raised the first $280,000. We plan to open all programs in the fall of 2020, after having completed Phase II fundraising in 2019.
Now, after a decade long effort, we have arrived at the crucial moment, when just that final increment of financial support will throw the doors open to hundreds, enrich their lives and improve our community.