City Council works with Dark Woods to bring kayak rental kiosks to Natchitoches waterways

Owners of Dark Woods Adventure Park, Jason and Mardi Summerlin came before the City Council at its May 22 meeting. The Summerlins are asking for a franchise agreement (at zero expense to the City) to operate a kayak rental kiosk at the Sibley Lake boat launch on Hwy. 504. This is something that should appear on the Council’s agenda for approval at its June meeting.

This is part of a new venture for the Summerlins called Dark Woods Outfitters as they look for more ways to bring family entertainment to Natchitoches as about 21% of recreation in Louisiana comes from boating and fishing. They’ve gradually branched out from their Haunted Attraction during the Halloween season to opening for Christmas and Easter, and opening a “Build-a-Bear” workshop and the Lost Treasure Mining Company. There are plans in the works to bring a 19-hole Adventure Mini Golf course to the Darkwoods property on University Parkway.

The ultimate goal for the kayak rental kiosks is to expand the project through the 10 parishes of Central Louisiana, while initially focusing on the City of Natchitoches. They’re looking at established waterways (Cane River Lake, Chaplin Lake and Sibley Lake) to bring this brand new technology to. The kiosks are unmanned, completely wireless, and solar powered. The industrial locker systems have state-of-the-art touch screens and QR code release and development. The kiosks would store two man and single user kayaks with all the necessary personal protection equipment (for all ages) and paddles. The footprint (per kiosk) is a 5×10 area. 

This technology is relatively new, within the last few years, and a few of these kiosks are operating in Texas. The customer will agree to a waiver, choose their kayak, how many hours they want to rent it for, and swipe their credit cards. The lockers pop open and the customer can grab their equipment, enjoy being out on the water, and return everything to the locker when they’re done. The kayaks can’t be rented prior to daylight and can’t be rented after dusk as a safety measure.