National forum slated to address water access issues

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Local government officials, coastal management planners, legal scholars and boating industry representatives will gather in Norfolk, Va., next May to explore solutions to water access loss, which is hindering recreational boaters, commercial fishermen and water-dependent businesses around the nation’s coasts, the Boat Owners Association of the United States said in a statement yesterday.

“Working Waterways & Waterfronts – A National Symposium on Water Access,” is set for May 9-11, 2007, at the Sheraton Norfolk Waterside Hotel under the auspices of the Virginia Sea Grant Program. The conference will bring together experts in many fields to delve into issues that surround the rapid conversion of working waterfronts—marinas, boat repair yards, fish piers and charter fishing docks—to other uses such as private residential developments and non-water dependant businesses.

Rising real estate taxes tied to “highest and best use” assessments and escalating property values fueled by the public’s desire to live on the water are driving the conversion. Water-dependent businesses, such as haul-out service yards, seafood handling facilities and boat builders, are losing access to the water as well. These losses compound the challenges that decision-makers at all levels of government face in trying to balance population growth, public services and economic development with the demand for public access to, and on, the water.

“This conference is designed as a forum to educate decision makers, management agency staff and water-dependant business owners to deal with these trends and to foster constructive dialogue about the nations’ changing waterfronts,” said Thomas Murray, Virginia Sea Grant economist and conference organizer and co-chairman.

The Sport Fishing & Boating Partnership Council, a federally chartered advisory body, the Coastal States Organization, BOATU.S., the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the States Organization for Boating Access, and other Sea Grant organizations are sponsoring the conference.

Working Waterways & Waterfronts will examine local, state and national-level initiatives to address water access challenges and support water-dependent industries. Academic research findings and viewpoints from industry specialists will also be included, aiming to develop new approaches to providing and managing access to the water.

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