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Kayak company given all clear to resume operations

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The boat ramp is shown at the Greenville Town Common. The city has reversed a decision banning a local business from launching kayaks from the boat ramp.

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By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The City of Greenville has reversed a decision banning a local business from launching kayaks from the Town Common boat ramp.

Knee Deep Adventures, a local outdoor equipment store and rental service, received a letter in early January from the Recreation and Parks Department ordering the business to cease all operations at the Town Common. The request came while the department prepared to search for a vendor to provide rental services at the park.

Kelsey Curtis, the owner and operator of Knee Deep, said she immediately began fighting the cease and desist order after hearing about it, because the importance of the Town Common boat ramp to her business. The ramp is one of only three launches in Pitt County, and one of two in Greenville.

Curtis said that on Thursday she received a call from the city and a letter informing her that the cease and desist order had been lifted.

“After consultation with various parties, the city of Greenville is withdrawing the stipulation that Knee Deep Adventures cease delivering kayak/canoe and related rental equipment to/from Town Common, for use by Knee Deep customers who have previously arranged a rental,” read the letter according to Curtis. “ We apologize any inconvenience the original decision has caused you and your company’s operations."

Curtis, who said she was only able to reveal what her lawyer representing her in the matter allowed, said she was grateful the city reversed the decision. Curtis said she would continue to push for the river to remain open for all.

She said she had to first add the city to her insurance policy — an $100 task, and turn in paperwork proving that before she could resume operations. She said she expected to be open again this week. 

"Knee Deep Adventures would like to sincerely thank all of our supporters,” Curtis said. “We are glad to have reached a resolution with the City of Greenville. We will soon be able to resume dropping off and picking up paddlers at the Town Common river access. We believe the Tar River has a lot to offer this city and keeping the access open to all will increase utilization by residents and visitors alike.”

Curtis said she was planning to approach the City Council at its next meeting with a group of supporters to continue fighting for open river policies.

Recreation and Parks Director Gary Fenton said the decision to let Curtis continue operating was based at least partially on upcoming construction at the Town Common, which could have the parking closed for about six weeks. He said the city would issue another request for proposals sometime in the future, but did not know the specific details of when that would be. He said he understands what the city was trying to accomplish with the cease and desist order.

“It wasn’t my decision but I can understand when you do an RFP you want to be perceived as being fair to all possible bidders, people that might respond to the proposal,” he said. “I think that was the original intent, was to not look like we already had any deal with one vendor”.

District 3 Councilman Will Bell, who Curtis credited with helping her reach a resolution, said he thought the waterways should be accessible to anyone in the city, whether or not they are a business.

“I don’t think that any government, whether it be local, state or federal, I don’t think anyone should be telling business owners or private citizens what they can do with public space,” he said. “It’s a public ramp; it’s a public park.”

He said he agreed though that companies should not be openly conducting business and exchanging money at the parks, but operating as Curtis did already, where she merely delivered the equipment that was pre-rented. He said the reason he personally took a strong interest in the issue was in part due to his upbringing.

“I think just being from Wilmington in general and growing up around water my whole life, I have a pretty heavy appreciation for public water access, whether it is for a business or recreational leisure,” he said. “That’s what really motivated me. Nobody should be restricted from water access, whether we go with a vendor or not, it should be open game for anybody to go down there and launch a kayak.”

A new kayak launch at the Town Common is expected to open sometime this spring.

Contact Seth Gulledge at Sgulledge@reflector.com and 329-9579. Follow him on Twitter @GulledgeSeth

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