Star City park gets kayak launch

STAR CITY — The new kayak launch at the Star City riverfront is just the first improvement for paddlers looking to enjoy access to Monongahela River, thanks to a partnership between the Morgantown Area Paddlers (MAP) and Star City.

Mary Wimmer, president of MAP, said she began working with Star City after looking at new places to put kayak launches for paddlers to get into the water safely.

“I retired from WVU three years ago, and when I retired, I decided I wanted to promote an activity that I loved for many years, and that is flat water kayaking,” she said.
The MAP formed in Fall 2015.
Wimmer said one of the important issues the group tackles is finding safe places to put in to the water. She said putting in kayak launches along the Monongahela River became a group project.

She helped raise money to put a launch in at an old Brownfields reclamation site off Van Voorhis Road.

“What makes these really important is that we have a lot of retirees that paddle with us, and some of us are not as fit as we used to be, so it can be a little harder to get in and out of boats if your boat is bobbing in the water,” she said. “That’s the most frequent time you have falls is when people are getting in and out of their kayak, when it’s bobbing along the shore. With the kayak launch, the boat is actually out of the water, so it sits in a little trough with wheels.

Wimmer said after raising money to put the first kayak launch in, the group began looking at adding a kayak launch to Star City’s riverfront.

Wimmer said the MAP group began working with Star City council and the Morgantown North Rotary to put a new dock and launch in, and the town made a large contribution from its tourism funds to help the project. The dock and kayak launch were installed in Star City the first of August.

“It used to be that the motorboats were putting in at the same time as the kayakers, and we were going off in the same direction. The way this is set up, they are actually going out a totally different direction than the motorboats, so that’s really nice.”

There are other kayak launches now, including in Fairmont and Morgantown’s Wharf District.

“There will be two of them at the Morgantown riverfront when that big $4.1 million project is complete. We will have a handicap accessible kayak launch there, in addition to a kayak launch attached to the Hazel Ruby McQuain dock.”

Wimmer said along with other projects to revitalize the Star City riverfront, the group is interested in adding a set of kayak lockers for paddlers to store their kayaks and gear.

She said many times people who want to stop for lunch or along the river don’t want to store their gear in their boat or leave their equipment along the river. This project is still
in development.

Star City Mayor Herman Reid said he was thrilled with the work MAP and other volunteers did to help get people out on the water.

“We needed a new dock, so we thought it would be nice to make it bigger and have a kayak launch there, so that worked out,” Reid said.

“Now, we have a kayak launch in Morgantown, in Star City and at Van Voorhis,” he said. “That pool of water right there, it’s a great thing for tourism, for people, and there’s still a lot of plans.”

Wimmer said along with the Star City council and MAP members, Morgantown North Rotary, Dominion Energy and many other donors contributed to making the Monongahela waterway a place to launch a kayak and enjoy the beauty of the river.