Make water access a priority

By Bernice McArdle, director of Affiliates, NMMA

Whether in good or bad economic times, the water access issue continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing the boating industry. I manage five different affiliate groups within NMMA, ranging from marine lenders, to houseboat, inflatable boat and lifejacket manufacturers, to SOBA, the States Organization for Boating Access. Across all groups, water access is a common issue that ultimately affects everyone’s bottom line, as it does anyone involved in boating. The boating industry is fragmented, each segment having its own priorities, challenges, needs and wants. Regardless of these, water access should be a priority — its availability (or lack thereof) represents ALL of our futures. Collectively, we can make a difference.

No one group or organization can tackle this issue alone, regardless of its power or size. Like Global Warming, working to improve water access is a mammoth task, but it’s the small things that each and every one of us can do that that will make the difference. This isn’t “someone else’s” problem – it starts right here, with us.

Here are some suggested ways various individuals or organizations can help:

State Agencies: Develop a short- and long-term strategic plan for water access for your state and work with the States Organization for Boating Access (SOBA) to adequately design and implement these plans.

Boat Manufacturers: Support local and national efforts to address water access and, in turn, grow boating. Get yourselves and your employees involved in efforts to preserve and build access.

Marina Operators: Serve as a communications link between boaters facing a loss of access and local and national groups fighting on behalf of the access issue. Marina operators and dealers are on the front lines of the access problem and often know of potential problems long before anyone else.

Dealers: Like marina operators, dealers can effectively pass along local information on access issues from the customers to local and national groups, as well as MTAs and local, state and federal officials.

Boaters: Boaters are the first to be affected by a loss in access. It is important boaters quickly and effectively communicate problems to local and national access groups, elected officials and anyone willing to listen. Boaters have a loud voice and should not be afraid to use it.

Marine Trade Associations: Serve as the voice of water access for your waterfront communities with local, state and national officials. MTAs often play a vital role in the politics and the economic decision-making of their areas and can promote access as a vital community benefit. They can obtain valuable boating economic data by visiting

I challenge each and every person reading this to devote one of their 2008 resolutions to doing something, however small, towards improving water access.

There is a now a nationwide team managed from Washington, DC, comprised of representatives from all aspects of the boating industry devoted to nothing but water access. The Water Access Alliance is a bold new organization tackling the access problem at a national level and providing tools for access advocates at the local level. Contact them today, and be a part of the future, YOUR future, at

This contribution is one in a series of solutions to the industry’s challenges as offered by female boating business professionals for the March 2008 issue of Boating Industry magazine. To view the article, Leading the way, including links to the entire list of solutions, click here.

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