TribLive: Fox Chapel crew team needs new docks to move to ARP

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Fox Chapel crew team could be moving to a new home at Aspinwall Riverfront Park.

The team is fundraising to buy low-profile docks and a gangway that would make the move possible, Head Coach Mark Bellinger said.

Cost is $200,000, of which the team has raised more than $75,000 from private donors, the Fox Chapel District Association and small foundations.

There also is a GoFundMe page, from which they’ve brought in more than $4,000.

Bellinger said the current park docks are not usable for rowing because of how tall they sit in the water. A ramp will need to be built to access the new docks.

Park board President Trish Klatt said it is a goal to reconnect people with the river.

“These new docks and this relationship with Fox Chapel Crew really opens up lots of opportunities to do just that,” Klatt said. “These docks will be useful for more than just rowing. Stand-up paddle boards and adult rowing programs are things we very much see for the future of Aspinwall Riverfront Park.”

Senior Captain Flora Gladwin is excited about the thought of practicing so close to home.

“We’re so lucky to have river access, and we want to row in our own community,” Gladwin said.

Bellinger said relocating to the park will eliminate a drive, albeit a short one, to the Millvale boat house during rush hour.

“Route 28 is not easy, especially during rush hour,” he said. “The time commitment of the commute alone makes crew a challenge for many students. In addition, some athletes would be able to take school buses directly to practice or even walk from home. Athletes in Sharpsburg and Blawnox could bike or take public transportation and easily reach the park.”

There are 45 rowers on the high school team. This past fall, 20 middle school students also participated.

The team traditionally sends at least one boat to compete at the Scholastic Nationals competition hosted each year in Ohio.

Bellinger has volunteered to lead the team for 24 years.

“Rowing is a great sport, and we have a great bunch of kids who have become competitive athletes for our team and beyond,” he said. “Some have gone on to college rowing with or without athletic or academic scholarships. Some are coaching at the highest levels, and some never touch an oar after high school. All however, learn sportsmanship, learn what it means to train and work hard to be an athlete while balancing school and family and other activities, and all who persist learn to love the sport and all that it brings to we who participate.”

For more, contact Bellinger at mfbellinger@gmail.com.