Coach: HHS Crew Program Doomed Without Boathouse for Rowing Team

Pictured, the Haverhill stretch of the Merrimack River. The coach of a successful high school rowing program fears the sport won’t survive without a boathouse for the student athletes to call their own. If Haverhill were to build a boathouse, it would be the farthest downstream; boathouses are currently located nearby in Methuen, Lawrence and Lowell.

The coach for the 4-year-old crew program at Haverhill High School warns the popular sport is unlikely to survive without a boathouse for the participating students to use.

Teacher Connor Hayden, who has coached the team since the program’s inception in 2014, told city councilors Tuesday that the lack of a boathouse has caused a lot of frustration.

“We do have the river; we do not have the appropriate place to access it,” Hayden said.

Each year, the team has used a different location to place their boats in the water for practice. The first year, the team rowed in Plug Pond. The second year, the student athletes placed their boats in the Merrimack River at the Crescent Yacht Club. The next year, the Kazmiera Marina on Coffin Street became the HHS Crew Team’s temporary home, but the heavy boat traffic was a concern, Hayden said. This year, the team used an access point to the river in neighboring Groveland, and plans to return to that location next year.

In the meantime, however, Hayden said he hopes the city can find a location for a boathouse that the students can share with the community.

A boathouse would provide “tremendous recreational opportunities that the entire community could benefit from,” Hayden said.

Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan suggested there may be access available from the banks of the river behind Trinity Stadium.

Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien suggested the council write to Mayor James J. Fiorentini to inquire about whether river access and a dock could be added to recent plans to upgrade the city’s access to the Merrimack in the stadium and Riverside Park area.

O’Brien suggested Hayden approach the School Committee for assistance, and counseled him to begin thinking about fundraising efforts.

City Councilor Timothy J. Jordan estimated a price of $350,000 for an appropriately sized boathouse to accommodate the crew team’s 60-foot long boats as well as smaller craft that could be used for public sailing instruction.

Jordan called it “short money” compared with the $2 million bond the city took out to design and build a ballfield to be used by the Haverhill High School softball team.