Cranford Canoe Club Is Back In Business
Repairs from Hurricane Irene are nearly complete and the 105-year-old club is again ready to welcome visitors.
Nestled alongside the banks of the Rahway River, the Cranford Canoe Club is obviously no stranger to water. But when Hurricane Irene tore through the township in late August of 2011, the same river that has attracted boating enthusiasts to the township for decades, flooded the small building in six feet of water.
When the river receded, township officials were able to assess the damage. Floors and walls would need to be replaced, doors would need to be fixed and the bulkhead would have to be rebuilt in order to get the club back in shape and ready for visitors. The club also lost supplies such as food that was stocked in the kitchen in preparation for Labor Day. Historical pictures and other items that decorated the walls were also damaged in the flood.
Ralph Circelli, the manager of the club for the past five years, said that when the river rose, most of the picnic tables that normally sit on a patio adjacent to the building were washed downstream. One table landed upright in a tree several yards away from the dock - it remains there today. Circelli is actually thinking of having the table painted white so it can be seen more clearly and serve as a reminder of the Hurricane, the losses the town suffered and the many ways in which residents came together to help put the town back together.
In order to help fund the repairs, the township will dip into $4.1 million in FEMA Public Assistance Program funding that was recently awarded for public property damage incurred from Hurricane Irene.
Decades ago, Canoeing on the Rahway was a very popular recreational pastime during the spring and summer. Canoe Clubs from various parts of the state would travel to Cranford to take part in competitions. River carnivals were often held to celebrate the township's proximity and fondness for the river. In fact, according to the Hanson Park Conservancy, a travelogue from the early 20th Century actually refers to Cranford as the “Venice of New Jersey.” The 105-year-old Canoe Club is still home to annual canoe races and events that take place in conjunction with July 4 celebrations.
More than 15 years ago, the Cranford Canoe Club building was purchased by the township, and with the help of Union County and The Hanson Park Conservancy, the modest structure on the corner of Springfield and Orange avenues was renovated.
The renovations to the building are now nearly complete, according to Circelli, and the club is officially open to the public seven days a week, with the last boat departing at 6 p.m. He's hoping that customers will begin returning to take a kayak or canoe out for a leisurely trip down the river.