Fort Pierce youth sailing program expands

FORT PIERCE — The Treasure Coast Youth Sailing Foundation can expand its instruction program now that the city has granted it permission to use Jaycee Park’s Pavilion 2, which is also popular with the general public.

In approving the measure, the City Commission dismissed the Parks Advisory Committee’s recommendation to reject the proposal because the public frequently uses the pavilion and conflicts could arise. Commissioners said the large pavilion does not always fill up and city officials are considering building two smaller pavilions, which may benefit more people.

“I’m very pleasantly surprised by the unanimous vote,” said Roy M. Whitehead, president of the foundation. “We lusted after this for a long time.”

The park is an ideal location for young beginners to learn sailing, Whitehead said. The pavilion is on the north side of the park, close to the river and is the closest site to the boathouse the foundation uses.

Program expansion is about a year or two away to put legal measures in place and raise funds for new boats, Whitehead said.

The foundation teaches children ages 7 to 14 in small sailboats, but wants to include larger, more complex boats for kids 14 to 18. The foundation has 12, one-person boats and plans to add six, larger, two-person boats that are faster for students to learn about competitive sailing.

The additional and larger boats made it necessary to seek more storage, Whitehead said.

The foundation’s programs had been held during eight weeks in the summer with about 10 children per class, but the program has expanded to year-round for beginner and advanced students. The foundation also offers tuition-free classes for disadvantaged children.

The foundation explored alternatives the advisory committee suggested but found they didn’t fit its expansion needs, Whitehead said. They included the foundation using a portion of the east parking lot, expanding the existing building, enclosing half the pavilion so the public and foundation can share it, or moving to different locations such as Bear Point south of Jaycee Park, the wastewater treatment plant on Seaway Drive or an abandoned trailer park on Seaway Drive.

Commissioner Tom Perona and Deputy City Manager Nick Mimms approached Whitehead about the possibility of expanding to the pavilion last year, he said.

“We’d been looking at this (the Jaycee Park pavilion) for three or four years,” Whitehead said. “We had little idea it would even be available.”

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