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Pasco Paddlepalooza organizers hope to boost tourism

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Published:   |   Updated: April 15, 2014 at 04:40 PM

Kayakers and other paddle sports 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, which will take place 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, Port Richey City Council approved preparations for campers pitching up to 100 tents at Waterfront Park April 25 and 26, as well as extra security patrols in the area.

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

Saturday will bring Paddling Pasco’s Durney Key Challenge, off Durney Key. Later, the Stilt House Craft Beer Festival is set for 1-5:30 p.m. at 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 on 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 all three days as well.

The full schedule is listed online at http://pascopaddlepalooza.com.

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

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

That means portable toilets would have to be set up in the park, O’Neill observed. 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 to handle paperwork.

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

The city, however, has no precedent for campers, Rowesaid. “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 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 would dedicate overnight patrols to the park only for the two evenings for camping, Police Chief Dave Brown explained. During the day, on-duty officers would 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. until 6 a.m. both evenings of camping, Brown said. Backup officers would be available for any overnight incident.

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

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

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

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