Access problem worsens in N.C.

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – Public boat ramp access is in short supply in North Carolina these days, especially along the coast, the Daily News in Jacksonville, N.C. reported on its Web site yesterday.

The number of registered powerboats in North Carolina has increased on a statewide basis by 4 percent since 2001, but the number of boats registered in the 20 coastal counties has jumped 13 percent, Gordon Myers, the division chief of state’s Engineering Services with the Wildlife Resources Commission, told the newspaper.

“There is, without a doubt, a need for more access in eastern North Carolina,” Myers said.

North Carolina is spending 6 percent more money on the access program – revenues from vessel registration fees are a major source of funding – but other forces are making it hard to stay the course, the Daily News reported.

Actual ramp usage in coastal areas might have increased even more than the numbers show. Many owners of boats used at the coast are registered in inland counties or brought in from out-of-state, Myers said.

And the cost to build a boat ramp has gone up, Ric Wright, coastal regional supervisor for Wildlife’s Engineering Services Division, told the newspaper. Aside from environmental considerations, which often run up construction costs, people are using bigger boats than they did 30 years ago.

“Back then, the average boat was a 16-foot, 30-horsepower,” Wright said. “Now we’ve got boats trying to launch as long as 34 foot.”

However, probably the most significant force rocking boating access issues now is development. Rising property values not only add to the expense of building a pubic ramp but also diminish private water access.

Properties that have for years served as community boating access areas are being sold to new owners who put up no trespassing signs; marinas that have traditionally served the public are increasingly catering to exclusive clientele.

“We’re actually adding facilities every year, but there’s a net loss of boating access facilities,” Myers said.

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