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A Pittsburgh adventure at Venture Outdoors

By: Danielle Levsky, new Communications and Media Coordinator

The kayaks all lined up and ready to go at North Shore.
The kayaks all lined up and ready to go at Kayak Pittsburgh – North Shore.
My move to Pittsburgh has been an adventure. I was offered the Communications and Media Coordinator position at Venture Outdoors at the start of August, and soon as I accepted, the gears started turning (and have not stopped since).
This isn’t my first rodeo with Pittsburgh. I spent my undergraduate years studying English and French at the University of Pittsburgh, getting to know the ins and outs of the city’s neighborhoods and surrounding parks. Even after I returned to Chicago, I longed to come back to Pittsburgh, the east coast’s treasure trove of cityscape and natural wonder.
I arrived and moved into my Pittsburgh studio on Sunday, August 23, then went to my first day of work the next day. I was starting at an interesting time: Kayak Pittsburgh’s season was coming to a close and planning for the following year was in the works. Our staff retreat was held on my second and third days of work where I learned more about our organization and staff than most people experience when starting a new job. We reviewed our program and mission accomplishments, set goals and brainstormed ideas for the future, climbed trees in our Executive Director’s front yard, and participated in a variety of team building activities. It was remarkably refreshing to get to know the personalities and goals of each of my coworkers so quickly. Since I would have a hand in working with each of them as I created social media, newsletter, and website content, I had a great foundation to start communicating in the most effective manner possible. As someone with the word ‘communications’ in her title, I’d say that’s pretty extraordinary.
During my on-boarding experience, I had a chance to meet with staff members individually and see how I could help them out. Two of my favorite meetings took place in most untraditional workplace settings: the Allegheny River and North Park Lake. As I had never been on a Kayak Pittsburgh paddle, our Kayak Pittsburgh Manager Vanessa Bashur and her adorable Pomeranian Penny took me to both locations so I could get to know the unique experience each venue had to offer.
Alex Keim sets up our kayaks at Kayak Pittsburgh - North Shore. Check out that beautiful skyline in the distance.
Alex Keim sets up our kayaks at Kayak Pittsburgh – North Shore. Check out that beautiful skyline in the distance.
At North Shore, the attendants were friendly and helpful in showing first or fiftieth time customers the ropes: signing a liability waiver, getting them strapped into their PFDs, going over the basics of kayaking, and launching customers into the Allegheny. It had been my first time kayaking in a year so I was reasonably nervous to get back into it. Penny, on the other hand, is a seasoned kayaker and couldn’t wait to get into Vanessa’s boat. I climbed into the yellow kayak with my paddle, grinning at Alex Keim who was helping Vanessa and me get our kayaks off the launching pad. “You ready?” he asked me and I nodded, bracing myself as I was launched into the water. I immediately began rowing my paddle to the left and right to steady myself, finally relearning the trick to hold the paddle in the water to steady myself, Vanessa and I took off in the direction of Point State Park, talking about Kayak Pittsburgh’s history and goals. We watched out for “water traffic,” like touring boats and service boats, as we crossed the river. Penny contributed her two cents, barking to us about the other kayakers we passed by on the water. We stopped several times along the way to marvel at the Pittsburgh skyline, the fountain at Point State Park peeking out next to the Fort Duquesne Bridge.
From left to right: Macie Ellis, Princess Penny and Vanessa Bashur
From left to right: Macie Ellis, Princess Penny and Vanessa Bashur lounging on the lake at Kayak Pittsburgh – North Park.
Then, we headed over to our second location for a little change of scenery. Fourteen miles out of the city and into the winding roads of North Park led us to the boat house, where more friendly attendants talked to me about kayaks, canoes, rowboats, Stand Up Paddle Boarding, and adult bikes. This time, Penny and I were both ready to get in the water. Vanessa, Penny and I were joined by Kayak Pittsburgh Site Supervisor Macie Ellis. Though my view couldn’t be more different than the first paddle, the fresh smell of the trees, calmness of the park and serenity of the green landscape brought its own perks. We leisurely glided down the smooth waters of North Park Lake as Vanessa and Macie explained their days and roles at this Kayak Pittsburgh location. Penny was feeling a lot calmer too, only getting chatty when she saw birds fly over our heads.
Reflecting on my experience, it’s no doubt that Kayak Pittsburgh is one of Venture Outdoors’ most popular programs. With outstanding views and ease of service at both locations, my social media campaigns can almost write themselves.
Danielle Levsky (me) having a blasty blast at North Park
Danielle Levsky (yours truly) having a blasty blast at Kayak Pittsburgh – North Park.
Beginning after Labor Day, on Tuesday, September 8, Kayak Pittsburgh will have Fall hours in place, with the last boat out at 6 PM and concessions closing at 7 PM.
Join us out on the water soon!

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