Water access issues taking toll on marine industry

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – During a seminar at the National Marina & Boatyard Conference and Exposition yesterday, Recreational Marine Research Center Co-Director Ed Mahoney warned the audience that water access issues are taking their toll.

“We are losing marinas at an increasing rate, and it is getting much harder to build new ones,” he said.

Mahoney cited the state of Michigan as an example, reporting that water access is declining at a rate of about 4 to 5 percent each year there, and he expects that may increase.

However, it isn’t just Michigan. Many other states, including Florida, Ohio and California “are experiencing declining boating access and accessibility … and this is affecting boater satisfaction, usage levels, recruitment and the boating economy,” he stated.

A large part of the problem, he said, is that water access isn’t being monitored by anyone.

“Nobody is looking at the big picture,” he explained.

Taking action

The answers, he said, include maintaining and enhancing recreational boating opportunity and access inventories, and connecting decisions about facilities, services, dredging and regulations to their impact on boating access, boat usage and economics.

In addition, he said states should be required to develop and implement comprehensive boating plans, and the industry needs to develop more scientifically valid measures, indicators and guidelines of carry capacity that can be practically applied by agencies.

Another point made by Mahoney is that boating access and preservation of “blue spaces” should be incorporated into local land/water use plans, and that the industry needs to develop innovative solutions for preserving and securing additional boating access, such as preferential taxation, purchase of development rights and public access through commercial facilities for payment.

Yet another piece of the solution involved the education of legislators and local elected officials by boater organizations and trade organizations on issues concerning boating access issues and solutions, according to Mahoney.

He said the industry also should proactively and strategically address concerns and issues negatively impacting the perception of boaters and boating, in addition to recognizing that boating access purchase and preservation is an investment, not an expense.

Finally, Mahoney said the industry must demand that federal, state and local agencies that provide, preserve and regulate boating access and accessibility work cooperatively to enhance boating accessibility consistent with their missions and mandates.

Mahoney’s presentation took place during one of 12 concurrent sessions offered during the National Marina & Boatyard Conference and Exposition. The event, co-produced by MOAA, ABBRA and IMI, is taking place at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, Feb. 4-7.

– Liz Walz

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