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Park commissioners agree to negotiate kayak center sale

The Vashon Park District's board of commissioners agreed Tuesday night to negotiate the sale of the agency's kayak operations to islander Doug Kieper.

Kieper has offered to pay $20,000 for the fleet of about 20 kayaks the park district currently owns, as well as 10 percent of his net revenue, or at least $2,000, as an annual rent for use of the agency's Jensen Point Boathouse. The commissioners, however, suggested Tuesday night that they might instead want him to pay 10 percent of his gross revenue as an annual concession fee.

After some discussion, the five commissioners, in a unanimous vote, agreed to enter into negotiations with Kieper.

"I'm comfortable with it, pending a contract," Commissioner Bill Ameling said.

Kieper, a clinical research scientist with a passion for kayaking, said he was pleased by the decision. He also said he'd be happy to pay 10 percent of his gross as his annual fee; last year, the small kayak center grossed about $20,000 and netted about $2,000.

"What I'm trying to convey is that I want the park district to continue to make money," Kieper said.

Kieper first broached the idea of taking over the park district's kayak center in December, when he made a presentation to the commissioners. The park district put out a request for proposals. Only Kieper responded.

Kieper, whose new business is called Vashon Watersports, said he's offering $20,000 for the center's assets — a fleet of kayaks, one canoe, two paddleboards, a trailer, safety equipment and gear — after he did an inventory. He estimated the retail value, were all the equipment new, and then offered 40 percent of that, or $20,000, he said.

Susan McCabe, the interim executive director, said she believes the move will be a good one for the park district. The agency could use the immediate infusion of cash as well as steady revenue from the kayak center. The budget the park district commissioners passed earlier this month shows it as revenue-neutral for 2013.

"I honestly think he can do a better job of making it a successful venture," McCabe said.

Kieper, who moved to Vashon a year ago, said he has lots of ideas about how to enhance the small operation. He envisions offering birding tours and marine ecology tours by kayak, delivering boats to other parts of the island and providing access to people with physical disabilities.

"I'm excited. I think kayaking on Vashon is a real gem," he said.

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