A Waterfront Revival Is Coming To Burlington

Sailing out of Burlington is getting easier thanks to the Community Sailing Center and the newly approved Burlington Harbor Marina project.

In late June, Burlington City Council approved plans for a new 160-slip marina. With that, and a new facility for the Lake Champlain Community Sailing Center in the works, there’s no excuse not to learn to sail this summer.

Over the last year, nearly 6,000 people have gone through the Community Sailing Center’s programs, taking part in everything from adult learn-to-sail classes to “Floating Classroom” visits. The center also hosts high school and University of Vermont racing teams and rents sailing dinghies, canoes, kayaks and SUPs.

The breadth and popularity of its program remarkable considering that the Community Sailing Center has grown gradually over the last 22 years, basically operating out of a garage and a tent behind the abandoned Moran Plant. And if you did graduate from the sailing programs and wanted to dock a boat in Burlington, good luck: space was limited and the waiting list was often long.

Now, the approval of the Burlington Harbor Marina project is a major step toward the creation of a substantial new waterfront park just south of the Community Sailing Center and Moran Plant. It includes improvements such as a breakwater, a floating facility with public restrooms, an interior dock with 160 slips (40 percent of which will be reserved for transient boaters), a waterfront plaza, pump-out facilities and a water taxi stand. Pending permitting, the project is expected to begin construction next summer.

Meanwhile, a site has already been cleared for a new 22,180 square foot Community Sailing Center and fundraising is underway for the building, new boats and new docks.

“Our goal is access: we want to get as many people out on the lake so that they can understand it and become good stewards,” says executive director Mark Naud. “We’re not a yacht club like Lake Champlain Yacht Club or something you might find in Newport, R.I. Nearly a third of the people who come through here do so on scholarships,” he notes.

In addition to the sailing programs, the non-profit is working with Vermont Adaptive, King Street and Spectrum Youth Services to get people who might never be exposed to boats or sailing, out on the lake. “We use our sailboats and SUPs to teach people leadership and communication skills or to explain how the wind works and the geography and meteorology around the lake,” says associate director Jen Guimaraes.

“Boats are the great equalizer: you don’t need an education, you don’t need physical strength, anyone can really learn to sail,” says Guimaraes.

So get out there! The Community Sailing Center is open every day through Sept. 5 and on weekends through Oct. 11. communitysailingcenter.org