Paddling North to Port GambleAugust 27th, 2009 by Rachel Pritchett
By Rachel Pritchett
Olympic Outdoor Center, a fixture in downtown Poulsbo for the past two decades, is moving to Port Gamble.
The kayak-rental business will move into the old fire hall in the historic sawmill town.
“It opens up a lot of opportunities for us,” said OOC owner and founder John Kuntz.
Among those are paddling excursions in Port Gamble Bay and Hood Canal, including overnight stays at parks that dot the canal. Paddling there is a notch up over paddling alongside Liberty Bay’s protected shoreline, he said.
“Port Gamble is a totally different place to paddle than Poulsbo is,” he said.
So that visitors are ready for the new challenge, OOC plans to boost its array of paddling classes, trips and events.
OOC will close its Poulsbo store Sept. 21, and open its Port Gamble store on Sept. 26. It will continue to keep some kayaks at its Poulsbo dock.
The move also allows OOC to work toward becoming a regional kayaking center. Kuntz is planning a major paddling expo next May that will spread into the town’s new Hood Canal Vista Pavilion and down onto the flats. Visitors will stay in tents, something that wasn’t possible in Poulsbo. He believes OOC’s new Northwest Paddle Sports Expo will draw visitors from all over the Northwest.
“Those opportunities make themselves available when you go to a bigger place,” he said.
And someday, perhaps OOC can grow its new location to include a water sports park and training facility, Kuntz said.
“The possibilities are there.”
The move falls in line with a desire of the manager of Port Gamble, Olympic Property Group, to retool the town a bit to draw more tourist action than it has in the past. Since it opened in July, the new pavilion has hosted a steady flow of weddings and other events.
More fairs and special weekend events have come to Port Gamble in recent years, as well.
“We plan on being a big part of that,” Kuntz said.
The building where OOC is located now is for sale, spurring Kuntz’s decision to head north, he said.