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History
Susquehanna Rowing Association was formed in 1985 by a small group of people who had either rowed in high school, college or wished to learn. George Spiess was one of the original members, and he continued in the club for the next 15 or more years, serving as President during some of the club’s most trying times. He is no longer an active member but supports the club in absentia. It was largely due to George that the club continued to exist, because he kept it together during some lean years….lean in members and money.

The club b egan rowing on the Susquehanna River and was granted permission to use the bathhouse on City Island as a clubhouse for its boats.  During its time on City Island, it annually challenged the Harrisburg Riverboat to a race during Kipona and won. The cup is now housed at Rae’s Tobacco Shop in downtown Harrisburg.

It always welcomed the community to try rowing by giving free beginner lessons on Saturday mornings. By then, it had several beginner shells plus a double and a quad.  In 1992 the club moved its headquarters to Gifford Pinchot State Park because the city was developing City Island and had other uses for the bathhouse.  By then, the club owned three singles, three doubles, a straight quad and a four with cox. This was the period of time when the club membership waned, and George Spiess kept it going. For several years, the membership consisted of George and perhaps 4 or 5 others.

Gradually, the membership grew and in 1998, the club sponsored its first regatta on the lake, calling it the Atlantic Sprints League Regatta. It has become an annual event since then with this year being the first year that it was a NCAA regional championship.

Officers

  • President - Jack Sanstead
  • Vice President - Steve McDougal
  • Secretary – Mary Mahoney
  • Treasurer - John Sweppenhiser
  • Coxswain - Bruce Herring
  • Trustee – Karen Wilson
  • Trustee – Dennis Martin

Directions
The park is near the metropolitan areas of York and Harrisburg. It is reached from Harrisburg via the Lewisberry Exit (35) of I-83 south, then PA 177 south; or by US 15 south to Dillsburg, then to PA 74 south. From York, take PA 74 north or I-83 north. From I-83, take the Newberrytown Exit (32), PA 382 west to PA 177 south.
DMS: 40o5’13.908” N 76o53’16.506” W
DD: 40.087 N 76.888 W

SRA is located at boat mooring #3.

From PA 177 south, turn left onto Alpine Rd. Go approx. 1.5 miles. Brown Boat Mooring 3 sign located on the right.

From PA 74 south, turn left onto Alpine Rd. go approx. 2.7 miles. Brown Boat Mooring 3 sign on left.

Article by Pat Carroll of the Burg
"There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." That's how Ratty put it to Mole in “The Wind in the Willows,” and Kenneth Grahame’s joyful dialogue still lures sailors and rowers to the gunwales a century later.

Early morning mist at Pinchot Lake covers the shoreline and hides a loon from the crew of two rowing a double shell into the sunrise, but then his mournful yodel sweetens the moment. “It's the most beautiful time of day," said Ron Alexander of Camp Hill, an oncologist who learned to row in the ’80s as an intern, and got back on the water with the Susquehanna Rowing Association. He does about 600 miles a season, rowing three times a week

A bunch of guys who rowed in college founded Susquehanna RA in Harrisburg in 1985, with the help of Wildware, an outdoors outfitter that also supports local canoeing and kayaking. The visual appeal of the slim boats riding the river like elegant waterbugs was really all the publicity the group needed.

Then it got a windfall when the Pride of the Susquehanna took to the water. The rowers challenged the new riverboat to a race from the steps of the Riverwalk to the West Shore – and won a handsome tin cup still on display in Strawberry Square, plus a boatload of newspaper and TV coverage. Most of the new members were also new to rowing, like Kevin Breckenmaker of Hershey. They came to the club through the free lessons offered every Saturday morning.

“I had no rowing background,” Breckenmaker said. “I was always curious about rowing, but never knew anything about it. What prompted me to decide to row was a terrible bike race in Mt. Gretna one summer day. I came off the back of that race and was dejected. The very next day there was a huge article on SRA. I went over to City Island on Saturday – this was August of 1990 – and there was the president of the SRA, giving us a synopsis of rowing, wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt.”

Hundreds of people took those Saturday morning lessons, and many joined the club. They followed it out to Pinchot State Park when the City of Harrisburg decided to take back the storage area at the City Island beach house, where the rowing shells had been racked.

The club now has a dozen boats for members at the lake. It’s a four-mile stretch of calm water that has become a favored site for the nine colleges who bring crews to race in the Mid-Atlantic Division III Rowing Championships, a women’s NCAA event in late April staffed by the Susquehanna RA volunteers.

Jim Davison of Etters runs the club’s side of the regatta, laying down the course for the varsity fours and eights that will race past a bankful of screaming students and parents. He got involved in the club because his daughter was a rower.

“We would drive her here every day and she’d go up and down the lake, and I finally said ‘what the hell am I doing driving all the way up here and watching her? I might as well join and row too.’” He joined, he learned, and he eventually became the Central Pennsylvania coordinator for USRowing referees and the varsity coaches from Bryn Mawr, Franklin & Marshall, Johns Hopkins, Marietta, North Park, Richard Stockton, Rutgers Camden, Mary Washington and Washington College.

There is a difference in age and ability between the college kids and the club members. But rowing has a huge participation base of masters rowers, people over 40 who appreciate rowing as a lifetime sport.


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