Growing Rowing in New Bedford

Two womans 8 person shells at the Head of the Charles regatta. (2007) Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

SouthCoast Today reported on the growing rowing program in New Bedford, Mass.: Nine months ago, Mayor Scott W. Lang stood in front of a boathouse on the Charles River in Brighton and spoke about his plan to bring rowing to the Acushnet River.

That plan is now a reality: About 30 teenagers and 50 adults participated this summer in a pilot program run by New Bedford Community Rowing, and the organization will launch competitive rowing teams this fall.

“We’ve got lots of big plans,” said Carolyn McGonagle, director of the New Bedford organization, which is an offshoot of Brighton-based Community Rowing Inc.

“Quite honestly, it’s been a dream. … (Lang) had a vision and got all the right people to support this idea.”

McGonagle was joined Thursday night by Lang, CRI Executive Director Bruce Smith and almost 100 other people, including several luminaries of the rowing world, at the newly opened Buzzards Bay Center on Front Street to celebrate the official kick-off of New Bedford Community Rowing.

“Rowing is very much alive and playing its unique role in developing the character of those who take up the oar,” said Thomas E. Weil, the event’s keynote speaker and a trustee of the National Rowing Foundation.

“You couldn’t ask for a better partner in business or life than a rower.”

The number of participants in the summer sessions exceeded the organization’s target, but McGonagle said she would like to see even more teenagers involved in the program.

Now that school is back in session, McGonagle will start recruiting participants from New Bedford High School and Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School as well as other area high schools.

The number of students currently enrolled for the fall sessions is a little low, said McGonagle, but she is hopeful that additional students will show up once the rowing classes start.

Beyond developing a community of rowers in the city, the organization is also looking to bring outside rowing teams to New Bedford by hosting a regatta in early October.

The city is also continuing to work toward bringing a boathouse to the former site of Fairhaven Mills, according to Matthew Morrissey, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.

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