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Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Port Richey ready for inaugural Paddlepalooza

Kayakers and other paddle sport enthusiasts can seek paradise in Port Richey for three days during the Pasco Paddlepalooza.

Gill Dawg, a marina at 5419 Treadway Drive, will be the base of the new event, to be held April 25-27. Gill Dawg is teaming with the Visit Pasco County tourism agency to make as big a splash as possible. New Belgium Brewing is the main sponsor.

Organizers are coordinating with Cotee River Seafood and Blues Festival the same weekend.

Last month, the Port Richey City Council approved preparations for camping at Waterfront Park on April 25 and 26, with space for up to 100 tents as well as extra security patrols in the area.

To kick off the weekend, participants will meet April 25 at Gill Dawg for a sunset paddle trip.

Saturday will bring Paddling Pasco’s Durney Key Challenge, off Durney Key. The Stilt House Craft Beer Festival is set for 1 to 5:30 p.m. at the Gill Dawg Event Center.

The Sunday slate starts at 10 a.m. with the Salt Springs Alliance Classic. Racers will paddle from the scenic lagoons of Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park through open Gulf of Mexico waters and up the Cotee River to Jasmine Park.

Later Sunday, the Battle in the Bayou Dragon Boat Races will take place as part of the inaugural Port Richey Dragon Boat Festival, in Millers Bayou.

Plenty of concerts are planned for all three days as well.

The full schedule is listed online at www.pascopaddlepalooza.com.

Because it is a new event, Paddlepalooza generated some lively debate about precedents among city council members as they reviewed the special event permit.

Organizers anticipate participants could pitch up to 100 tents in Waterfront Park, City Manager Tom O’Neill said.

That means portable toilets would have to be set up in the park, O’Neill said. Any parking overflow would have to be accommodated.

O’Neill recommended the organizers add the city to an insurance policy for the event, hire any city police as necessary, clean up the park after campers leave, pay a refundable security deposit for use of the park and pay a fee for handling paperwork.

“It’s an exciting thing for the city,” Councilman Terrence Rowe said of the three-day festival. Gill Dawg CEO Erik Suojanen has been cooperative, city leaders said.

The city, however, has no precedent for campers, Rowe said. “Are we opening Pandora’s box here?” he asked. Rowe also suggested the city charge a $500 fee for its paperwork and handling.

Some elderly residents live across the street from the park, Councilwoman Nancy Britton said. “I want them to feel secure,” she said. “I would hope the police will be there the whole entire weekend.”

Police officers will dedicate overnight patrols to the park only for the two evenings of camping, Police Chief Dave Brown said. During the day, on-duty officers will monitor pedestrian and street traffic in the area as part of regular patrols.

Organizers are hiring two officers for a shift from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. both evenings of camping, Brown said. Backup officers will be available for any overnight incident.

Brown figures most participants probably will seek a good night’s sleep before the competition.

“There will be no alcohol in the park,” Brown said. “We will protect the city property to the best of our ability. I believe we’ve got it covered.”

Mayor Eloise Taylor thinks Paddlepalooza will become a “great event for the city.”

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