While many neighborhood residents are buzzing these days about plans to build a new boathouse near the lake’s north shore, White Rock Boathouse, Inc., in place on the other side of the lake for nine years now, is steadily growing.
The non-profit organization has made rowing accessible for students and adults, and it has changed much of the face of White Rock Lake. Executive director and head rowing coach Mark Wilson and member Thomas Carr, both Lake Highlands residents, gave us a tour of the facilities and filled us in on the following facts about their organization:
The White Rock Boathouse, Inc. facilities include the original White Rock Boathouse at Tee Pee Hill and a large boathouse nearby.
The original small art-deco style boathouse was built on the shore/water in 1930.
In 2004 the White Rock Boathouse group self funded the effort to refurbish the original boathouse, which was suffering from neglect, deterioration and gang-related graffiti. Today it is back in use. Rowers nicknamed it The Boomerang.
In 2007, White Rock Boathouse raised $2.5 million to turn the dilapidated, abandoned, vandalized Water Works building, next to the lake’s Filter Building, into the big boathouse. Rowers nicknamed it Big Boathouse.
The White Rock Boathouse, Inc., in collaboration with the Park Department and Dallas Water Utilities, also renovated the Filter Building at White Rock Lake for use as an entertainment venue that garners funds for boathouse facilities’ maintenance and rowing programs.
The renovation projects received design recognition from American Institute of Architects, Preservation Dallas and the Texas Historic Commission.
The modern era of rowing on White Rock began with the Dallas Rowing Club formation in 1980. It disbanded in 1982.
Dallas Rowing Club rebooted at Bachman in 1983 and occasionally held events at White Rock.
In the late ’90s, the Southern Methodist University women’s crew team began rowing on White Rock, from the Bath House Cultural Center.
With the opening of the Big Boathouse, programs such as the WRB Juniors, a rowing program for students from a variety of Dallas high schools, and the WRB Masters, open to anyone over age 18, emerged.
SMU crew teams, along with Jesuit High and Highland Park Crew, moved into the new boathouse.
Rowing is an excellent exercise for adults, Tom Carr says. He says he started rowing to complement his running, but now rowing is his primary passion. Not only is it easier on your body, because it is no-impact, but it also works your arms, core and legs — your whole body, really, he says.
It also can be mesmerizing: “I know it’s goofy, but some mornings the seagulls group up and fly up behind me, right over me, and you can almost look them in the eyes. Pelicans sometimes do close fly-bys. You don’t know exactly when these moments are going to happen, but when they do, it’s really neat.”
White Rock Boathouse has taught more than 500 adults to row.
Boathouse members can reserve club-owned boats online after passing an initial skills test and have open access to facilities. Learn more about membership at whiterockboathouse.com.
As for the juniors, rowing is the ultimate team sport, coach Mark Wilson tells us. “It’s not a sport where you have one superstar,” he says. “They have to really work together. You are only as good as your weakest link. For kids, this is an important lesson to learn.”
About 35 percent of students in the juniors rowing program receive financial assistance.
The juniors rowing team is open to any high school student in the Dallas area.
So far, 19 Dallas-area schools are represented.
Among participants, 25 percent are ethnic minoroties.
The boathouse also offers opportunities for middle-schoolers, summer camps for beginners and elites, and college recruiting seminars.
In 2011 Woodrow Wilson High School’s Eli Brown represented the USA on the U.S. Rowing’s Junior Development Team. He now rows for the University of Washington.
Bishop Lynch High School graduates Hallie Chambers, Morgan Henry and Kevin Cadell are rowing on their college teams this season.
The U.S. Paralympics office of Dallas recently selected White Rock Boathouse as the site for adaptive rowing programs in Dallas. Adaptive rowing is a special category of racing for people with physical disabilities. As of summer 2012, there is an active group of 10 adaptive rowers training twice a week.
This year, the Highland Park Crew team changed its name to the United Crew and announced plans to build a new, bigger boathouse on the opposite end of the lake from the Big Boathouse.
Carr says that the separation of White Rock and United rowing clubs was necessary because both groups are growing exponentially. “Our masters program, just for example, went from 20 rowers to 252 altogether. Juniors in camp last summer went from 16 the previous year to 117 this past summer. Rowing is growing.” For that reason, he says, “another facility that supports rowing is a good thing.”
For news on the new boathouse, visit lakehighlands.advocatemag.com and search “Dallas United Crew.”