CHICAGO — REI reopened the Ping Tom Memorial Park Boathouse this weekend three years after closing its doors.
The Ping Tom Memorial Park boathouse, 300 W. 19th St., opened in 2013 under the Park District’s purview with kayak rentals provided by local kayak vendor Urban Kayaks. REI took over the boathouse rental contract in 2017 and provided rentals through the end of the season in 2019 before ending its contract for financial reasons.
AJ Velon, regional experiences manager at REI Co-op, said she’s hopeful the reopening of the Ping Tom Park Memorial Boathouse will bring newfound excitement and interest in recreation on the South Branch of the Chicago River.
REI is partnering with the Ping Tom Advisory Council and the Park District on It’s Your Park Day Saturday, where volunteers can clean up the river using free kayaks provided by the boathouse. Interested volunteers can register online for the event.
Velon said REI plans to work closely with community organizations — especially those in Chinatown, South Loop and Pilsen — to provide community programs and opportunities to explore this unique slice of urban nature along the Chicago River.
“We want this to be a success for the community, big time,” said Mike Ulreich, co-chairman of the Ping Tom Advisory Council.
Ulreich’s volunteer-led organization advocates for Ping Tom Memorial Park.
“As Chinatown community members who are deeply involved in Ping Tom Park, we are really excited about the boathouse reopening, and we want other community members to feel the same,” Ulreich said.
Rentals cost $30 for a single kayak and $40 for a tandem kayak for the first hour and $15 for each additional hour.
Reservations can be made online, or kayaks can be rented in person based on availability. Rentals booked online can save 30 percent when using promo code “KAYAK23” through June 6.
The REI Boathouse at Ping Tom Memorial Park will be open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday through Labor Day and Saturday-Sunday from Labor Day through mid-October.
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