Yorkville plans to offer self-service kayak rentals at downtown Fox River park

Kirk (front) and Buffie Lange, from Elwood, kayak through the Marge Cline Whitewater Course Monday, July 18, 2021, in the Fox River in Yorkville.

YORKVILLE – Yorkville’s Marge Cline Watercourse in the Fox River is regarded as a premier destination for kayakers.

The 1,100-foot whitewater course along the south bank of the river in the heart of the downtown attracts watersport enthusiasts from far and wide, featuring channels suitable for both novices and more experienced paddlers.

The Yorkville Parks and Recreation Department is planning to capitalize on the popular attraction by offering self-service kayak rentals from a location in Riverfront Park near the watercourse.

Parks and Recreation Superintendent Tim Evans told the Yorkville Park Board on July 19 that the kayak rental program would make the watercourse more accessible to the public.

The kayaks would be stored and available from metal racks that people can access with a credit or debit card, similar to bicycle rental programs.

The solar-powered “smart lockers” would be secured with app-controlled locks, Evans said, explaining that the park staff has investigated offering the kayak rentals with the firm Rent.Fun.

To rent and access the equipment, users simply download the Rent.Fun app, enter their payment information, sign a digital waiver and unlock and rent the kayak by scanning the QR code on the smart locker, Evans said.

The app includes tutorials on water safety and kayaking tips for beginners, Evans said.

After the kayaking adventure, the user returns the equipment to the same locker, and the rental automatically ends with the person’s credit or debit card charged for the duration of the rental in one-hour increments.

Most of Rent.Fun’s rentals charge $20 an hour, Evans said.

Park board members reacted enthusiastically to the idea. They did not take a formal vote, but gave Evans the go-ahead he was seeking to pursue the project.

Board member Gene Wilberg, who has been a proponent of more bicycle trails in Yorkville, said he believes the kayak rental program will attract more visitors to Riverfront Park and the watercourse.

Wilberg noted that there are different types of kayaks, and volunteered to work with the parks and recreation staff on the project.

Evans said that under the proposed contract with Rent.Fun, the vendor would conduct ongoing maintenance of the facility and equipment, including kayaks, life jackets, paddles and lockers.

The city would pay a one-time activation fee of $3,750, and would receive 50% of all rental revenue.

Rent.Fun would provide $1 million in general liability coverage under the five-year licensing agreement.