On the surface, Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center is similar to many other rowing facilities: bays full of racing shells, a jungle of oars, rows of ergometers, lots of hard-working athletes, and a team of passionate coaches. When looking deeper, the passer-by will notice sailboats, kayaks, paddle boards, windsurfers, and more. Besides offering this huge range of outdoor water activities, Mount Baker has forged a unique and close relationship with its surrounding community, one that includes the Pocock Foundation. Jason Coffman, newly appointed Senior Recreation Program Specialist, is evidence of that close relationship and his hopes for the Center grows that history into a renewed vision.
Mount Baker opened its doors 30 years ago, thanks in large part to the residents of the surrounding area who lobbied for a public boating facility. As part of Seattle Parks and Recreation, the Center is still closely tied to residents of the community and residents of the community have stayed tied to Mount Baker. Many of the current staff members began as participants in the rowing programs there.
Jason began rowing at Mount Baker as a sophomore in high school and “got hooked pretty quickly;” however his history with the facility goes slightly farther back. “I grew up just south of Mount Baker on Ferdinand Street. We could see the facility being built from our kitchen window. My mother prompted me to try it out.”
Besides rowing there as a youth, Jason was also the head coach for the varsity girls squad before becoming Senior Recreation Program Specialist. Last season, he coached the V8+ to a first place finish at regional championships and a fifth place finish at National Championships. According to Jason, he still interacts with program participants and staff members on a daily basis, but stepping into this new position fulfills “a desire to have a greater role at Mount Baker” as well as giving him the opportunity to “have a greater effect on the larger community which has been a second home.”
The community surrounding Mount Baker is uniquely diverse, both culturally and economically, and therefore gives the Center the opportunity to bring that diversity into its programs. Scholarship opportunities like Rainier Valley Rowing facilitate this by assisting youth participants with financial aid, transportation, and other resources. Jason believes that in order to truly represent the demographics of the community, Mount Baker “must continue and increase our commitment to working within our community and with partners such as the Pocock Foundation to increase our profile in the community and reduce barriers to participation.”
Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center presents a vital opportunity for the rowing community as a whole. It is a boathouse planted near one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the city of Seattle. It is also a boathouse that has the potential to respond to the disparity of health in our city. These maps recently published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Urban Institute, pinpoint just exactly why the surrounding community to Mount Baker needs more opportunities and support for healthy recreation. Here is a boathouse where rowing can enter someone’s life and truly help a whole community get healthier.
The Pocock Foundation is committed to helping community boathouses like this succeed through providing youth scholarships and staff support. And, Jason Coffman continues to improve the programs and offerings of Mount Baker to help the larger community. “We must continuously re-evaluate ourselves and look to opportunities for us to create the best programs possible, be they nationally competitive rowing and sailing teams, convenient adult introduction classes, or safe and fun summer camps.” If you would like to support the Mount Baker Rowing and Sailing Center as a whole, visit their website. If you would like to support youth scholarships for youth at Mount Baker in the Rainier Valley Rowing program, click here.