Study examines Hingham Harbor’s boating potential

A Hingham rowing enthusiast is spending his own money to study how the town can better accommodate rowing and sailing groups looking to use the town’s shallow harbor.

The study, by Boston-based Community Rowing Inc., will look at the feasibility of upgrading docks and building a year-round facility to accommodate boating classes and Hingham High’s popular rowing program. Supporters of the initiative say the facilities could be funded through private donations and operated by a nonprofit group.

“What I saw was a lot of groups working really hard to provide great programming down there, from high school rowing to Lincoln Maritime,” said D.J. MacKinnon, an Alexandra Way resident who is paying for the study. “But at the same time, maybe it’s time to move toward the next generation and provide some better facilities.”

The study, which is expected to be completed within a few months, has the blessing of Hingham selectmen and the town’s harbor development committee. It comes after a series of public discussions last year about boat facilities and the lease held by Lincoln Maritime Center, a nonprofit organization that offers youth and adult boating programs and operates a boathouse on town-owned Barnes Wharf.

Selectmen renewed the organization’s annual lease last year and began charging $12,000 a year in rent for the first time despite opposition from Lincoln Maritime supporters. Representatives of the organization have pushed for a longer lease, saying they need a longer-term commitment before they can invest in improving the facility.

Sturt English, a Standish Street resident and president of Lincoln Maritime, said the center’s programs are limited by the space available in the building, some of which it shares with the high school rowing program. He said he would like to see a facility with classrooms that can be used during inclement weather, additional repair and storage space for boats, and rooms that can be used to host events.

“I hope that Lincoln will be a part of whatever future it is they envision, but I think realistically, the question has to be what can we provide back to the community in Hingham,” he said.

Doug McCaig, director of Hingham High’s rowing program, said the 105 students now participating in rowing are at a disadvantage when competing because the program does not have the facility to offer winter training. He said the program would benefit from a new facility.

“Without a place to train, it becomes a little more difficult,” he said. “A year-round facility would be a huge boon to our town and our program.”

MacKinnon and a representative from Community Rowing met this week with selectmen, the harbormaster and the harbor development committee. At the selectmen meeting Tuesday, board members urged them to consider other harbor users, including walkers and swimmers, as they study ways to accommodate rowing and sailing groups.

READ MORE about boating in Hingham.

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