Families can enjoy paddleboating and kayaking safely this summer, thanks to Gahanna Parks and Recreation.

Zac Guthrie, parks and community-services supervisor for Gahanna, said city staff recognized earlier this year that paddling programs would provide an opportunity for residents to safely enjoy Gahanna's waterways, such as Big Walnut Creek.

"At that time, we made plans to modify our operations to offer paddleboats and kayaking," he said. "We have added kayaking, a new paddle location at Friendship Park, developed a webpage -- paddlegahanna.com -- and created an online reservation process that allows the customer to schedule a time for their experience."

Guthrie said the system has allowed Gahanna Parks and Recreation to expand its operations in a safe manner while improving the overall experience.

The cost to take out a kayak or paddleboat is $10 for 30 minutes, with a reservation required in advance through the webpage.

Creekside Park Marina, 123 Mill St., has both kayaks and paddleboats available for rent from 4 to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, noon to 9 p.m. Fridays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Friendship Park, 150 Oklahoma Ave., has kayak rentals from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Keiara Smith, a 2013 Gahanna Lincoln graduate, said she and her family, which includes Jordan Long Sr. and Jordan Long Jr., 3, live in Columbus but often spend time in Gahanna.

They rented a paddleboat to explore the Big Walnut Creek on July 12.

"It was fun," she said. "Short and sweet. I like that they have the reservations."

Gahanna's Autumn Conley rented a kayak to take her children, Amara, 10, and Alayah, 3 , for a ride July 12.

She said she had taken a paddleboat ride for the first time the day before.

Josh Latzko, events and senior recreation coordinator, said in these trying times, the department is excited to witness the number of people enjoying the program's benefits this summer in a safe and rewarding way.

"We've had participants ranging from 2 months old -- don't worry, she had a tiny life jacket! -- to grandparents taking their grandchildren out for a 'date night,' first-time kayakers conquering fears to groups who could probably tackle level 5 rapids with ease, and everywhere in between," he said. "No matter the extent of their prior experience, I have been so delighted to see so many groups of families and friends enjoying an experience together in our wonderful parks."

As of July 8, city communications manager Carrin Wester said, there were 465 rentals at Creekside and 64 at Friendship Park for a total of 529, compared to 640 for the same period last year.

She said time is set aside between boat trips to disinfect equipment.

"Due to COVID-19 precautions, we had to limit the number of boats that go out per hour to enable our boat crew to properly disinfect all equipment," Wester said. "After each use, each boat, paddle, life vest and touch points are disinfected per CDC requirements."

Thanks to a grant from the Gahanna Parks and Recreation Foundation, new life vests made of a PVC material were purchased to allow proper sanitization between use, she said.

For more information, email paddle@gahanna.gov or call 614-342-4250.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla