Women standing with kayak in front of new kayak kiosk.

Kayaks available 24/7 at Gainesville’s Longwood Park.

When Kate Mattison became director of Gainesville Parks and Recreation in May 2019, she saw Lake Lanier and knew what she wanted to do for the city’s residents.

“I took one look at the lake and was mesmerized,” said the former Ohio resident. “I thought, what are the possibilities for engaging people in the lake? And what could we do at the city to get them more involved?”

After extensive research she found the answer: Bring self-service kayak/paddleboard rentals to Longwood Park.

“Boating can be an expensive hobby, and it can be a challenge to load up a kayak on the top of your car and take it somewhere to paddle for an hour or so,” she said. “By giving people easy and affordable access to kayaks and paddleboards right next to the lake, it makes enjoying the lake so much simpler.”

After sending out a request for proposals, the city contracted with Gnarly March, a South Carolina-based business that specializes in self-service kayak and stand-up paddleboard shacks.

Download the LINKAGo App and set up an account to get started. The Longwood Park location has 10 stalls that include both a large and small personal floatation device, paddle and a hybrid kayak/paddleboard. The program is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week on a first-come, first-served basis. The minimal rental is one hour, but there is no time limit. Usage after one hour is changed in 15-minute increments.

“We wanted to make the process as simple and user-friendly as possible,” Mattison said. “We had our grand opening in late March and already we’re getting very positive feedback.”

For more information, visit www.gainesville.org/kayakshack.

Photo: Courtesy City of Gainesville