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Kayak Club: Activity picking up at Shawnee Twin Lakes

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star
Area residents have discovered a new form of outdoor entertainment at Shawnee Twin Lakes.

There's a new game in town.

With pandemic restrictions ruling the day, some local residents have cracked wide open a well-suited — though wet — work-around to hanging out together while adhering to social distancing requirements.

The Pottawatomie County Kayak Club has seen a flash flood of new members since COVID-19 made the scene.

While kayaking is not necessarily new to the Shawnee Twin Lakes, club co-founder Denoda Rutherford said COVID-19 — as well as the club's recent Facebook presence — has pushed the sport to overflowing, locally.

“We had somewhere between 50 to 70 members in March,” Rutherford said, “but we have about 800 in the group now.”

Area residents have discovered a new form of outdoor entertainment at Shawnee Twin Lakes.

Not only that, she said neighboring Tecumseh residents have started their own group.

“Now we have two Facebook clubs in Pott. County,” she said. “There, we're able to post outings, events, pictures, tips and trips.”

How it got started

Rutherford said she got hooked on kayaking about a year ago after she responded to an open Facebook invitation to join local teachers Theresa Dane and Kelli Parsons, who were sharing plans to get out on the water.

She loved it; fate sealed, she bought herself and her daughter kayaks.

As participation started picking up, Rutherford reasoned there should be a better way to organize the effort. That's when the Pott. County Kayak Club made its debut on social media.

In the spring, when COVID-19 began splitting people apart, the outdoor activity became a go-to for more and more residents, sealing them back together in a new way.

Area residents have discovered a new form of outdoor entertainment at Shawnee Twin Lakes.

Newbie Nights were created, where residents could borrow a kayak and give the sport a try.

“I borrowed boats from everyone I could find,” she said. “One night we had 45 out on the water at once.”

The group's popularity really took off.

“Most everyone who tried it loved it,” Rutherford said.

However, it quickly presented a problem; they found themselves literally up a creek without a paddle — and without boats.

“Because of COVID, whether boats were stuck in China (not being shipped) or not being made, the kayak market went dry,” Rutherford said. “There wasn't a kayak to be found anywhere locally.”

Rutherford said after talking to Dunham's Sports, she got a line on where some boats were. A Dunham's in Bartlesville was a hub store, and it had recently acquired 300 kayaks when another outdoor outlet went under.

Hitching up a long cattle trailer, Rutherford was on the move. She and a friend hit the road and brought back 29 kayaks — which were all sold to locals within three days.

A similar situation occurred in Perkins, where a store owner bought stock from someone going out of business. That time, with a friend's trailer, Rutherford said the duo packed on as many as they could haul — 24. Those all sold within a couple weeks while she was in the middle of trying to plan a vacation, Rutherford said.

She said she realized the road trips for boats weren't going to be a good long term solution.

At an Oklahoma City sporting store with Abby Flood, Rutherford said she half-jokingly suggested she should just start a rental business. The retailer remarked she could get a license and become an outfitter for the store's American-made kayaks.

Lightbulb moment.

“That was in May,” she said. “After vetting it all out and praying, I finally decided to pull the plug.”

With Fall soon to bring the season to a close, Rutherford said she figured the timing was perfect for easing into the process slowly and work out wrinkles.

She's been renting kayaks at the lakes for the past three weekends.

Right now she doesn't have a permanent home for her new business, she's hauling boats back and forth.

She said she thinks a solution is in the works.

“There's been a lot of good feedback and momentum,” she said. “The lakes aren't utilized enough.”

She said she has no intention or desire to commercialize the area to death, but sees the amenity as a great resource for the community.

“People want more to do and the city is working on it,” she said.

Main Street business Coffee and Crafts teamed up with Rutherford's rental enterprise, Shawnee Water Sports, in a joint event beachside this weekend, where a prepaid ticket provided customers coffee/pastry tokens and an hour-and-a-half boat rental Saturday morning.

For more information, search Shawnee Water Sports on Facebook and Instagram, search Pott. County Kayak Club on Facebook.

Halloween event

Rutherford said Oct. 18 will end the season for rentals, but a Halloween-themed glow paddle is planned.

“We're hoping to get a big screen so we can watch the movie Jaws while we're out on the water,” she said.

For more information about future events, contact Rutherford at shawneewatersports@gmail.com.