HUDSON RIVER PARK — A free kayaking program is struggling to stay afloat after its 2-ton dock was stolen from a Hudson River pier last year.
Manhattan Community Boathouse is working to raise $30,000 to replace its 400-square-foot plastic floating dock, which mysteriously vanished from Pier 96, off West 55th Street, in October.
"It kind of disappeared without a trace," said Kaitlin Petersen, president of the group, which runs free kayaking programs in Hudson River Park and Riverside Park. "It’s the most frustrating thing in the world to think that this giant piece of plastic could just disappear."
The $25,000 dock was secured by ropes and an anchor, and it was filled with enough water to bring its weight to 2 tons. But boathouse members discovered on Oct. 25 that the ropes tethering it to the pier's permanent wooden dock had been cut and the floating dock was gone.
Coast Guard searches of the river didn't turn up any clues, and no witnesses came forward, Petersen said. There was no sign of forced entry in the locked, gated area where the dock was floating. Police said Wednesday that no arrests had been made in the case.
Manhattan Community Boathouse recently launched an online fundraising campaign to raise $30,000 to replace the dock and beef up its security before the boathouse's season begins on Memorial Day. The campaign had raised about $2,700 as of Wednesday.
The temporary plastic dock is essential for the free kayaking program because it is closer to the water than the main wooden dock, making it easier for beginners to get into the boats, Petersen said.
"Without this separate dock — this lower dock — we won’t have a program," Petersen said. "It’s not possible. It wouldn’t be safe."
EZ Dock, which made the original dock, would need to receive an order for a new dock by the end of February in order to have it ready by the beginning of the boathouse's season in May, Petersen said. The deadline for the online fundraiser is Feb. 20.
The Hudson River Park Trust, which leases the pier to the boathouse, did not respond to a request for comment.
Petersen hopes the funding comes through in time to continue offering free kayaking at Pier 96.
"We want people to get out there," Petersen said. "It’s a really fun great place to be."