In early spring of 2017, Rock/Creek, an outfitter for outdoor gear and experiences in Chattanooga and beyond, will be launching a new rental program in partnership with Hamilton County Parks. The two have teamed up to increase access to, and enthusiasm about, the beautiful parks in both Chattanooga and the wider Hamilton County.
"We’re trying to reduce the barriers between people and getting into activities like paddle boarding, mountain biking, and kayaking," explains David Bishop, the Rental Program Coordinator at Rock/Creek. “A lot of people want to try this stuff, but if you don’t have a friend with a board or who knows what they’re doing, sports like these can be prohibitively costly, on top of just being straight up intimidating to a first timer.”
"Some of these parks are in the heart of downtown Chattanooga—people drive by and a lot of them don’t even realize they’re there," explains Bishop. “We really want to inspire people to discover these places if they haven’t already, and to get engaged in the community and to take ownership over our public parks and other shared spaces.”
Rock/Creek also wants to collaborate with other groups and fellow outdoor enthusiasts as outdoor tourism in Chattanooga continues to boom. "We want to enable people in the community who don’t have direct access to equipment to be able to participate in what Chattanooga has to offer. And groups of tourists, too—we want everyone to be able to have the best outdoor experience possible in our city. If a group of paddleboarders are visiting, for example, but can’t or don’t want to hassle with their boards, we’re going to be there to supply them with what they need," Bishop says.
In order to break down barriers and increase access, Rock/Creek’s new rental program is designed to connect people of all skill levels to expert staff who really know their stuff, while providing them with top notch equipment. In addition to working with some of the top gear brands, the Rock/Creek staff is made up of "over 100 people, including people with professional mountain biking experience, for example—people who live and breathe this stuff every day. Our staff has explored all over the country and the world and they bring a lot of experience and expertise to our work," Bishop notes.
If you want to take up an outdoors sport for the first time, these are the people you want to learn from. "We accommodate all skill levels from novice to expert, but we’re definitely going to host a lot of beginner classes because we want to create an environment where people can learn on the best equipment possible and have a really safe experience at the same time," continues Bishop. All of their new and expanded rentals will be available by the hour, half day, or full day at each of their three new locations in Hamilton County Parks: Riverpark, Enterprise South Nature Park, and Chester Frost Park.
At Riverpark, Rock/Creek will be operating out of the Fry Center along the Tennessee River Walk and will be renting boats, paddle boards, cruiser bikes, road bikes, and mountain bikes. Beyond rentals, they’ve got their sights set on providing truly unique outdoor experiences at this location. "To give you an idea of the programming we’re going to have, we want to have some kind of Huck Finn type of experience—a river float where you put in at the park and float down river to downtown Chattanooga where there’s a shuttle to pick you up and bring you back," says Bishop. By the summer, Rock/Creek is also hoping to have showers installed at Riverpark. “It’s great because it’s on the greenway and parking is free,” Bishop explains. “So you could come down to the park and go for a run, swim, or kayak, then shower and go about your life.”
At Enterprise South Nature Park, they’re launching a fleet of mountain bikes in tandem with offering tire tubes and tune-ups at the trailhead, so if you’ve got your own bike, you can easily take care of it there before hitting the trail. "It’s going to be in the bunker next to the parking lot for the mountain bike trails," Bishop adds.
The Chester Frost Park location will be unique because the offerings will be watercraft only—just paddleboards and kayaks. "The bay is really nice and has gorgeous mountains in the background—it’s a great spot for people who want to leisurely try these things out for the first time on Chickamauga Lake," says Bishop. Also, to keep everything centered on community, Rock/Creek is planning to host free outdoor movie nights at Chester Frost and Riverpark. “Think about how cool it would be to have everyone in a kayak or on a SUP on the bay [at Chester Frost Park] and watching a movie. Someone even tossed out showing Jaws. How cool would that be?” asks Bishop.
Engagement and diversity are perhaps the biggest driving factors behind the collaboration and expansion. "We’re looking to include traditionally underserved segments of our community because cost should never be a reason that someone can’t enjoy the outdoors. Everyone here at Rock/Creek is really stoked about this—it’s just so cool to make these resources available for everyone," says Bishop. “We also want to engage outdoor programs in high schools and universities, for example. If someone reads this and wants to call us up to collaborate, that would be awesome.”
Originally written by RootsRated for Rock/Creek.
Featured image provided by Photo courtesy of Rock/Creek