N.C. needs more boat ramps

RALEIGH, N.C. – When it comes to public boat ramps built and maintained by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, there’s no question demand exceeds supply.

So says the commission after tallying up the results of its recent wide-ranging study that focused on boating access across the Tar Heel state. Conducted from October through December of 2006, the “Boating Access Survey” received input from a total of 3,783 North Carolina residents, with particular attention paid to 20 coastal counties, the commission reported in a statement last week.

The report showed that roughly 7 out of 10 respondents use commission boat ramps. Of that group, ease of use, convenient location and fishing opportunities near access points were cited as primary determining factors.

However, a significant portion of those respondents cited crowding, limited parking and lack of public restrooms as major factors that should be addressed in an effort to improve commission-run boat ramps.

“If I don’t get to the ramp before 6 a.m. on a weekend, boating becomes too hard to bother,” said one survey participant. “I probably skipped 10-plus trips this year because it is just too crowded.”

Nowhere were these issues more prevalent than in coastal counties, where rapid shoreline development is making water access tougher to find, the commission stated.

One out of three respondents in coastal counties said they’d lost access to a boat ramp in the last five years. Overall, roughly 7 out of 10 respondents said they’d like to see more public boat ramps.

“I would like to see existing ramps, which are not state-owned Wildlife ramps, be made state owned and ‘saved’ from development,” noted another survey participant.

Boating remains popular

It’s clear that boating is a popular pastime in North Carolina. On average, survey participants said they use their boats 58 days per year. The most common reasons for hitting the water were recreation (73 percent), saltwater fishing (53 percent), inland fishing (51 percent) and hunting (15 percent). Individuals were encouraged to name all boating activities in which they participate, leading to an aggregate total that exceeded 100 percent.

The watercraft used by survey participants was quite varied. Among motorboat owners, 78 percent had a vessel that measured between 14- and 23-feet long. Roughly 22 percent of those surveyed used canoes or kayaks, while 8 percent owned personal watercraft (also known as jet skis) and 6 percent hit the water in sailboats.

Data was gathered using four different methods. The most common was an Internet survey, which received 2,292 responses. Close to 800 individuals participated in a phone survey, while 363 filled out paper questionnaires at popular supply stores and marinas. Finally, 336 individuals were interviewed in person at boat ramps.

The commission said it’s constantly searching for ways to improve user experience at any of the more than 200 state-owned boat ramps in North Carolina. For more information on the study, or to see the survey results, visit the Commission’s Web site at www.ncwildlife.org.

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