Personal watercrafts abundant in Lady Bird Lake, rental companies still unable to open

Lady Bird Lake has seen crowds of paddle boarders, kayakers, and rowers each weekend for several weeks now, but rental companies operating there are still shut down. 

Austin Lake Patrol said even though the boat ramps are closed, people are still able to drop their personal paddleboard or kayak into the lake at access points along the trail. 

However, places like Austin Rowing Club must remain closed, which rowing team members said feels a bit hypocritical.

“We want to benefit the community with an opportunity to be safely outdoors and participate in physical activity. And we believe we have the means to do that, but so far, we're not able to do that,” said Kevin Reinis, executive director of Austin Rowing Club.


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Since COVID-19 cases started climbing in the Austin area, members of the Austin Rowing Club have been kept away from their favorite form of exercise. 

“It's been hard because it was something that we did every day after school, or whatever activity you're coming from, and not having a place to go to work out and socialize with others was a hard change to the schedule,” said Avarie Carpenter, varsity girl's team member at Austin Rowing Club.

The Austin Rowing Club said they implemented safety protocols once shutdown orders were in place. They switched to reservation only, mandated masks, and disinfected boats before and after each use. 

RELATED: Parking reduced at Austin parks, Butler Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake converted to 'one-way'

“What's unique about rowing is we limit it to singles only, which is one rower and one boat, oar in each hand, it's called sculling, that's about a 35-foot perimeter. You just can't even get close to anybody, even if you wanted to,” Reinis said. 

Still, the Austin Parks and Recreation Department said all their facilities, as well as concessions and boat ramps around Lady Bird Lake, remain shut down in order to reduce social gatherings. 

“The lake is not closed. The general public can go and they are going in non-trivial numbers,” said Reinis. 

RELATED: Central Texas parks close as they reach capacity during COVID-19

“There's zero reason why they shouldn't be letting a club, from a club perspective at least, letting ARC operate and get those kids and get those adults on the water for their physical fitness,” said Mindy Smith, a parent of an Austin Rowing Club team member. 

“I also know that the club staying closed at least for a little while longer is going to make it as safe as possible for when we are able to go back and row all together... But it is a little frustrating and it makes me a little jealous,” said Hana Hight, varsity girl's team member at Austin Rowing Club.


The parks department said the decision to close rental facilities around Lady Bird Lake was overseen by the health department. They gave no indication of when that might change. 


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