Boater safety program for teens planned at Benderson Park in October

Powerboat, paddling and sailing instruction to be offered in classroom and on-the-water sessions

The primary entrance to Benderson Park is on North Cattlemen Road, near University Parkway. File photo

A new program at Nathan Benderson Park will offer teenagers an opportunity to learn to operate and maintain power, paddle and sailing craft, the nonprofit Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates (SANCA) has announced.

Young people who are 14 and older will be able to earn their Florida boater’s licenses “in a rare mix of classroom and on-the-water learning,” a news release says. Nonetheless, the release points out, the main objective of the program is for participants to develop self-confidence, social skills and self-control, and to demonstrate responsible behavior “while having a great time.”

The Spirit Of America Foundation’s Premier Youth Education Program is partnering with SANCA to offer this boatsmanship program, the release notes. (SANCA manages Benderson Park through an agreement with Sarasota County Government.)

“It’s a great comprehensive boater safety education program,” Benderson Park Program Manager Meghan Farrell said in the release. “You’re learning these things the right way.”

Nationally certified instructors will lead participants in five hours of sessions on the water in each of three disciplines — power boating, paddling and sailing, including time with personal watercraft, the release adds.

The curriculum condenses the national standards of several organizations that govern sailing, canoes, kayaks and power boats, as well as that of the U.S. Coast Guard, Farrell pointed out.

Upon completion, each participant will receive a certificate and a gift, as well as his or her boater’s license, the release says.

The program also will feature a drowning prevention course and a visit from a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officer, who will speak about boating safety and about opportunities in law enforcement with the commission, the release notes.

The dates for the program are Oct. 19-23 and Oct. 26-30. The fee is $100. For more information, visit

“If you’re passionate about the water and boating, it’s a great camp,” Farrell said in the release.

“This program collaboration is another example of our commitment to providing educational opportunities through the unique attributes at Nathan Benderson Park,” SANCA Chief Operating Officer Stephen V. Rodriguez said in the release. “From water adventure camp to Learn To Row and everything in between, SANCA is committed to getting residents of all ages on the water, and to develop a knowledgeable and water-safe community,” he added in the release.