Albemarle will be 1 of 2 cities in North Carolina with automated kayak rental program

Beginning later this year, visitors to Albemarle will have a new way to enjoy the City Lake Park, as the park will be home to a self-service kayak and paddle board rental station.

Albemarle is entering an agreement with Michigan-based RentFun, a company that offers self-service bicycle, scooter and kayak rentals, to install a 3.5-foot by 10-foot smart locker at the park, which will hold four kayaks visitors can access through the company’s app. The city council voted unanimously to approve the deal during its meeting Monday night.

Each of the kayaks will come with life vests and a paddle, Parks and Recreation director Lisa Kiser told Council. The locker will be near the dock at the boat launch.

Rental rates are expected to be $15 per hour. RentFun and Albemarle would split the rental fees 50-50. The kiosk could bring in around $6,000 during the season, depending on how many people rent kayaks, of which Albemarle would take in $3,000, Kiser said.

The entire program costs $16,000, which the city will finance through funds from the current fiscal year 2022-2023 budget ($6,000) and the upcoming 2023-2024 budget ($10,000).

The program should pay for itself in three years, Kiser said.

Once the station is installed, users can access the kayaks by creating a RentFun account and then scanning the QR code on the locker. All the equipment will be returned to the storage station once finished.

RentFun will assume all liability associated with the program, though users will need to sign a digital waiver prior to accessing the equipment.

The company has self-service rental kiosks in states such as Florida, Texas and Kentucky, though Albemarle and Havelock will be the first two cities in North Carolina, Kiser said.

The locker will be accessible year-round for people to take advantage of going out onto the water.

“As long as people can get out and go kayaking, they will be available,” Kiser said. “I think it’s pretty exciting.”

Council members were receptive to the program.

“I think this is going to be a great attraction,” Councilman Bill Aldridge said. “I think we’re going to get a lot of people from not just Albemarle and Stanly County but throughout the region as well. I think it’s an awesome opportunity for us.”