AUSTIN (KXAN) — For more than 40 years, the Austin Rowing Club has been a city staple, providing water recreation activities to all and special programs for children, veterans, lower-income families and people with disabilities.

Now, ARC is preparing for the next chapter of its storied Austin history — this time, east of Interstate 35.

ARC is one of the central tenants of the city-owned Waller Creek Boathouse, currently located on Trinity Street along the north shore of Lady Bird Lake. With Project Connect’s blue line planned to run through that current site, the Waller Creek Boathouse, and ARC, will relocate to the vacated former youth hostel site at 222 S. Lakeshore Blvd.

“That area of our community has been historically underserved, in terms of overall services and park amenities. So we’re very excited to be able to bring extensive programming activation and community engagement to the Austin Community east of 35, and also on the south side of the river,” said Kevin Reinis, executive director of ARC. “This is really a huge expansion opportunity to provide and continue to provide public benefit to the community.”

At a January Project Connect public interest meeting, project leaders had identified six potential relocation sites for the Waller Creek Boathouse. During that discussion, the former youth hostel location was flagged as the most ideal relocation site due to its existing building, canoe rental concession and ability to “better distribute water recreation more evenly across waterfront parkland on Lady Bird Lake.”

Site 6, the former youth hostel location along South Lakeshore Boulevard, has been selected as the future home of the Waller Creek Boathouse and Austin Rowing Club. (Courtesy: Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Austin Transit Partnership, Capital Metro, City of Austin, Project Connect)

For Reinis, this relocation effort is more than three years in the making, even before Austin voters approved the multi-billion-dollar transit program in November 2020. He said while this relocation is bittersweet, this is a new chapter, and service opportunity, he’s welcoming with open arms.

“We’re also not strangers to the youth hostel. Austin Rowing Club, we actually rowed out of there like 25 years ago, where there was a pool with no water and it was covered with planks and the boats were stored there,” he said with a smile. “So, in some cases, it’s kind of coming full circle for the boathouse community.”

On May 16 from 12-1 p.m., Project Connect leaders will provide a full update on the boathouse relocation efforts and new site. Members of the public can register for the virtual information session here.

The exact timeline of that move is tentative and is likely years down the road, based on current project timelines, Reinis said. Still, he said he commended Project Connect and city leaders for working to find the best possible alternative site for water recreation.

On April 16, ARC hosted its inaugural health and fitness festival at Festival Beach, in partnership with the East Town Lake Citizens Neighborhood Association. The event collaborated with approximately 15 local nonprofit partners, including members of the Austin-Travis County Vietnam Memorial Association, The Trail Foundation and the People’s Community Clinic.

At the festival, Reinis met with multi-generation native Austinities who’d lived their entire lives on the eastside, having never been out on the lake. For Reinis, he said this move is a new opportunity to connect all residents with the resources in Austin’s great outdoors.

“It was really a special time, and it was really kind of bringing the boathouse to east Austin in all of its richness,” he said.