Charles River Recreation is dedicated to providing unique outdoor recreational opportunities in the Boston, Massachusetts metropolitan area.
Today we operate Paddle Boston (headquartered in Newton and offering canoe and kayak sales, classes, guided trips, and seven rental locations), Weston Ski Track (located at the Martin Golf Course in Weston and offering cross-country skiing and instruction on groomed, lighted trails), and Kendall Square Community Ice Skating (a refrigerated, Zamboni-maintained ice skating rink in Kendall Square, Cambridge).
Charles River Canoe Service
It all started in the early seventies, when Mike Farny had the vision of offering affordable outdoor recreation to Boston-area residents. In cooperation with Commissioner John Sears of the Metropolitan District Commission, Mike opened the Charles River Canoe Service on May 23, 1973 using the basement of the MDC Norumbega Police Substation in Newton/Auburndale.
At the head of the historic Lakes District, and next to the site of the renowned Totem Pole Ballroom and Norumbega Park, this late-19th-century building offered the perfect site to revive interest in the Charles and the opportunities for local recreation. In concert with the newly formed Charles River Watershed Association, whose focus on bettering the quality of the river would bring about great improvements in the next decades, Mike would get people onto the Charles.
Weston Ski Track
Seeing a parallel opportunity to offer winter outdoor recreation in the relatively new sport of cross-country skiing, Mike opened the Weston Ski Track at the MDC's Leo Martin Golf Course the following year (1974-75). Merging Scandinavian ideas with American technology, the center offered urban night skiing and snowmaking along the scenic banks of the Charles River just upstream from the Canoe Center.
Mike Farny's goal was to heighten people's awareness of the environment through active human-powered recreation. His triangular relationship of "technique – fitness – environment" would lead to a healthier population, which would be taught proper techniques to fully enjoy local recreational opportunities. Everyone could then appreciate the outdoors and advocate for improvements in the environment.
Run of the Charles
In 1983, when the Charles River Watershed Association was in need of funding, we organized the Run of the Charles canoe and kayak race. Although never a great source of funds, this event has raised awareness of the river and its recreational opportunities. This race has grown to be the largest in New England, with over 2000 paddlers each April.
In the mid-1970s, present owners Larry Smith and Dave Jacques joined Mike as managers of the Lincoln Guide Service, a bicycle and cross-country ski shop and instructional center in Lincoln, Mass. As business expanded, Larry and Dave assumed management of the Canoe Center and developed the Ski Track. In June of 1986, Dave, Larry, and Jim Foss assumed ownership of these two centers, changing the name of the Canoe Center to Charles River Canoe & Kayak to acknowledge the expanding influence of these versatile boats.
Over the years Charles River Canoe & Kayak has broadened our offerings to include instruction, trips, rentals, children's camps, and sales for canoes and kayaks. Nevertheless, the mission to bring affordable outdoor recreation to the Boston area endures.
Charles River Canoe & Kayak Expansion
In order to make outdoor paddlesports recreation more accessible to more residents, we have added a number of boat rental/instructional centers since 1993. In that year, our second rental center opened, this one location on Soldier's Field Road in Boston's Allston/Brighton
. This center is a cooperative effort with the Department of Conservation and Recreation's Division of Urban Parks and Recreation.
In September of 2009, we opened our first location truly accessible by public transportation: in Kendall Square, Cambridge
. In cooperation with Kendall Square Corporation, we offer boat rentals, guided tours, and instruction in one of the best urban paddling sites in the world and only a five-minute walk from the Red Line. Our Kendall Square location has allowed us to take our mission of outdoor recreation for the masses to a new level. We also began offering one-way trips between Kendall Square and Allston/Brighton, which is also located on the lower Charles River.
In May of 2010, in cooperation with the City of Newton Department of Parks and Recreation, we opened a fifth rental location in Newton's Nahanton Park
. Situated on one of the longest stretches of flatwater on the Charles, this location offers a more secluded and wild feel, even though it's only minutes from Newton, Needham, Dedham, and West Roxbury.
Kendall Square Community Ice Skating
During the winter of 2006-2007 we partnered with Kendall Square Corporation to operate their new ice skating rink in Cambridge, Kendall Square Community Ice Skating. The rink's mission, like all our operations, is to make outdoor recreation accessible to more people. The rink offers ice skating on a refrigerated and Zamboni-maintained surface, skate rentals, lessons, and a snack bar to warm any cold feet at the end of your skate.
We will continue to bring affordable outdoor recreation to residents of the Greater Boston area, and hope that you'll join us in our quest to get more people outside using and enjoying our amazing natural resources so these resources can be preserved and protected. We'll see you on the water, on the snow, or on the ice!