Rowing club seeks help after falling tree damages boats

Shells belonging to the Burton Beach Rowing Club were crushed by the weight of a fallen madrona tree in July (Lisa Lorentzen photo)

Shells belonging to the Burton Beach Rowing Club were crushed by the weight of a fallen madrona tree in July (Lisa Lorentzen photo)

Lisa Lorentzen, president of the Burton Beach Rowing Club (BBRC), is trying to stay positive in the wake of catastrophe — on July 7, a large madrona tree fell and crushed several of the club’s rowing shells stored at Camp Burton under a tent, a number of them damaged beyond repair. The shells were fully insured, but the costs are still mighty, and Lorentzen said the burden is felt deeper than that.

“Boy, we were on this great path, and then this accident happened,” she told The Beachcomber. “This kind of set us back a lot.”

For the island’s newest rowing club, the incident is an unfortunate chapter in its short history. Driving cross-country last February, Head Coach Richard Parr and the parent of a club rower headed to Medford, Massachusetts, to pick up several of the now damaged shells from Tufts University after officials there offered them at a discounted price.

“Through rain, sleet and a snowstorm, these guys traveled in an Acura with a 40-foot boat trailer attached to the back of it,” Lorentzen said.

The Men’s U-23 Northwest Rowing Center crew, training out of the BBRC’s Camp Burton headquarters, also lost a new quad supplied by Hudson Boatworks after the tree fell. They recently represented the United States at the 2018 World Rowing Under-23 Championships in Poznan, Poland, with Parr as their coach. In an email, he acknowledged Alan Stewart of the Vancouver Lake Rowing Club, who he said offered to repair and loan the club boats in the wake of the incident. John de Groen of Windermere Realty has pledged support as well, according to Parr. With his contribution, the club will have a new coxed four arriving in late August. But they still have a long way to go.

“Two of our doubles are a complete write-off, and insurance will cover some of the replacement, but we are going to be scrambling for smaller boats — and the money to pay for them,” he said.

Parr said that the resiliency of the club’s members and the support of athletes, parents and the Northwest rowing community “has been amazing.”

“The successes of the first year of both the Burton Beach Rowing Club and the Northwest Rowing Center will continue to grow. We’re a determined bunch with a great spirit, and we look forward to continuing to develop on what we’ve done so far,” he said.

In May, four BBRC rowers and a coxswain claimed three gold medals from the Brentwood Regatta on Vancouver Island in Canada. Later that month the club earned an invitation to USRowing’s Youth National Championships at Lake Natoma in California. The performances of two BBRC rowers, Gabbie Graves and Kate Kelly, caught the attention of USRowing, which recently published a story about the girls. Along with fellow rower Roslyn Bellscheidt, the girls took part in the Junior National team selection and development camp in New London, Connecticut earlier this summer. The camp selects young rowers believed to have world championship potential who may go on to represent the U.S. Junior National Team at major competitions.

Lorentzen said that the BBRC has no aspirations to be an especially large group — the club has high hopes of growing its modest membership, which now stands at 10 junior rowers — but with several expensive rowing shells destroyed, the incident at Camp Burton has “stopped us dead in our tracks.”

The club was interested in adding a quad to its fleet; the new boat would have cost $25,000. But in the accident, they lost one that the club already owned. Out of their total of six boats, five were housed at the time under a tent at Camp Burton, which provides space to the club at no charge, and all but one sustained major damage. In addition to the club’s boats, two singles borrowed from the Seattle Rowing Center and a Northwest Rowing Center quad were also destroyed.

“We went through the whole winter with wind storms and rain and everything else, and then on a perfectly calm summer afternoon, crash. So it was very bizarre,” said Lorentzen.

She noted it was originally the generosity of parents who donated their time and money toward the purchase of rowing shells that made it possible for the club to form. The next step will be to gain the attention of the island and larger rowing community as a whole, she said, as activity in the GoFundMe campaign launched by the club to help with the expenses has slowed. Well below the club’s fundraising goal, the campaign is online at https://bit.ly/2mwlExq.

“Even for our determined people, this is a setback, but nothing we can’t overcome. Any support would certainly be welcome,” said Parr.

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