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The Villages
Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Dragon Boaters pack Villages meeting after being bumped from Lake Sumter

Orange-shirted members of This Boat Rocks, unhappy about schedule changes at Lake Sumter, crowded Monday morning’s meeting of the Project Wide Advisory Committee.

Dragon Boaters have been negatively impacted by kayaking, fishing and nature tours recently introduced by the Recreation Department.

This Boat Rocks serves as the entry level group for Villagers who want to explore Dragon Boating, a sport that has enjoyed tremendous growth here and across the nation. This Boat Rocks has 140 members, including an 87-year-old and dementia patients who benefit from the stimulation of the activity.

Members of This Boat Rocks packed the District boardroom ahead the 8:30 a.m. Monday meeting.

“After eight years of enjoying a stable and predictable schedule of hours, our schedule was abruptly changed last month, leaving us with an administrative mess which wreaks havoc with team practices and personal schedules,” said Susan Chicoine, founder and captain of This Boat Rocks.

Lake Sumter is owned by the Sumter Landing Community Development District.

“It is not an amenity,” said District Manager Janet Tutt.

This Boat Rocks heads out on Lake Sumter.

The Recreation Department has purchased kayaks, a 20-foot boat and a trailer to provide the new fee-based activities on Lake Sumter. A part-time employee, David Weston, and longtime Recreation Department employee Scott Grimes, oversee the new activities.

The new activities took over time slots previously enjoyed by Dragon Boaters.

“It created some friction, as we can see in the audience today,” said John Rohan, head of the Recreation Department.

His department schedules activities on Lake Sumter. He likened the scheduling of activities on the lake to the scheduling of softball.

“This is not a water body where one group has a monopoly,” Rohan said.

PWAC member Don Wiley, chairman of Community Development District 10, said there is a perception problem with what has occurred,

“The perception is that we have taken a social group and displaced them for a for-profit entity,” Wiley said.

PWAC asked Rohan to meet with the Dragon Boaters and attempt to work out a schedule that is beneficial to all parties.

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