December 15, 2013

Will the Arlington Yacht Club sail away?

The city’s only boat club could disband after 49 years pending city approval to tear down its building, and remove the boat yard along Lake Arlington.

In 1975, Jack Hattendorf searched the phone book for a place to call home after moving his family to Texas. He found it at the Arlington Yacht Club.

At the club, Hattendorf immediately got “100 new friends,” said his son, Jack Hattendorf II.

His family’s attachment to the club over the years has grown even stronger, so much so that nearly 40 years later the son lives only a mile away. His daughters, Aubin, 12, and Ava, 9, spend their summers at what they affectionately call “the clubhouse.”

But the city’s plans to build a new lake facility, trail system and several pavilions on land the club leases at Richard Simpson Park may scuttle their dreams of third-generation boat ownership.

Up to 85 families and 100 boats will be displaced if the city finalizes its Lake Arlington Master Plan, which would tear down the yacht club’s building and eliminate boat storage, the younger Hattendorf said.

The yacht club would have no other choice than to leave the property 10 years before its current lease expires because the metal gates that give access to 8-foot-long kids’ boats as well as 26-foot cruising sailboats would be torn down.

“If you don’t have on-the-water boat storage for these kind of boats it’s hard to have a cohesive club,” Hattendorf said.

Fifty yacht club members are expected to attend Tuesday night’s City Council meeting to show unity and plead with council members to let them keep the land.

Mayor Robert Cluck said a final decision about what to do with the yacht club site has not been made, but he made clear that the council wants to make the park area inviting and “better-looking.”

“We have been discussing the long-term lease, and I think either way if they stay they’ll have to clean it up substantially,” Cluck said of the boat yard. “We haven’t come to any clear decision.”

Fun in the sun

The yacht club was formed in 1964 at the old Fun in the Sun country club on the south end of Lake Arlington, which is on the city’s west side. But when membership outgrew the club’s walls in 1970, it moved to an old bait shop and leased 1.13 acres at the park as its new home, Hattendorf said.

In 43 years, the club has built a fixed dock, a floating dock, a two-lane boat ramp, bathrooms in their clubhouse, a garage and a covered patio.

City officials say the yacht club building, which sits on the shore of Lake Arlington, was built before many of the city’s codes were in place so that it is not in compliance; to fix the heating, ventilation and air conditioning — and deal with asbestos issues — would cost too much.

Elevating the club building to prevent flooding also isn’t a possibility. As a result, the club, as well as the Lake Arlington Activity Room, must be torn down, officials say.

The Parks & Recreation Department originally suggested that the yacht club build a pavilion for outdoor activities, said Parks & Recreation Director Pete Jamieson. But then the council said it wanted to eliminate the boat storage, too.

“If you were to master-plan the park today, you would never put boat storage on the shoreline,” Jamieson said. “For one thing, they are sitting right down in the floodway and every time we have a major storm there is a threat the boats have to be moved.

“The problem is there really isn’t anywhere else in the park where we can store boats without raising objections by neighboring property owners,” he said.

The department must first get the council to endorse its master plan, which might not happen until spring, meaning that construction wouldn’t begin until 2015, Jamieson said.

The first phase of the capital project will cost $2.2 million in 2008 bond funds to build the activity room, improve drainage and make parking lot modifications. The new lake facility will have exterior restrooms so the current outdoor facilities next to the yacht club will be removed, Jamieson said.

Cluck stressed that the council doesn’t have a “timeline at this stage.”

“We are just trying to understand what we want to do there and how we want to improve Richard Simpson Park and, obviously, the yacht club will be one of the decision points for us,” Cluck said.

Not a bunch of ‘blue bloods’

Yacht club members are mounting a campaign to keep the City Council at bay.

Instead of moving the boats, the yacht club wants to work with the city to improve the park’s aesthetics.

Secretary Garrett Williams said club members would be willing to install a rock wall around the boat yard to match the brick of the new lake building. He said they could cover the boats with “pretty” matching covers and install white rock on the club grounds.

The club also previously pledged to spend the $25,000 it has raised to build a new dock.

“Short of paving it with Faberge eggs, we’ll do what we can,” Hattendorf II said.

On Dec. 7 the club set up a Save the Arlington Yacht Club Facebook page in response to talks with council members. The page had 729 likes at the end of last week, and statuses encouraging viewers to write District 4 Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon, who represents the district where the park and club are located.

The club has also launched a letter-writing campaign to the council that highlights the club’s nearly 50-year history of community participation, which includes year-round racing, youth sailing camps and regattas. Pamphlets about the history of the club were also sent to council members’ homes.

Wilemon did not return calls from the Star-Telegram seeking comment.

“One of the biggest things we are trying to get across to the city is that this is an affordable recreation,” Williams said.

The club consists of mechanics, businesspeople, doctors and even people who don’t own boats. All work is done on a volunteer basis. Membership is open to anyone at $185 a year, and anyone who lacks a boat can use club-owned boats, Williams said.

“I feel that Lake Arlington and the inexpensive sailing club in the park adjacent to the water is just as enjoyable as Cowboys Stadium and the Levitt Pavilion,” said Bryan Keathley, an ardent Dallas Cowboys fan.

In letters to the council, Hattendorf’s daughters and Keathley’s sons Nick and Robert wrote a list of “great reasons” why the club should stay, including dwindling lake usage, longevity of the club and because “I and the other kids would be very disappointed if our club house were gone,” Aubin Hattendorf said.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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