No going back

There are no easy answers.
But with the formation of the Grow Boating Initiative Water Access Task Force, the marine industry is a step closer to confronting one of its biggest obstacles to future growth.
What once may have been perceived as Florida’s problem is now recognized as a potential threat to the entire industry. How big a threat it is has yet to be determined, however. In fact, there is little concrete data available to define the problem. Creating that data may be one of the task force’s first initiatives.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that not only is the decline in water access becoming more widespread, it may be nearly impossible to reverse.
“Once a marina or boatyard has been converted into a residential community, it’s gone,” explains Tom Errath, Brunswick Corp.’s water access general manager. For that reason, the marine industry can’t wake up five years from now and say, “Boy, we should have tackled access,” he adds.
Water access certainly isn’t a problem Brunswick can tackle alone. While it is a boating industry giant and the first company to create a position dedicated to water access, it’s going to take an industry-wide effort — and resources beyond what Brunswick can supply — to make a serious dent in an issue so complicated yet fundamental. The harder it is for boaters to get on the water, the less likely they will be to boat.
Brunswick does want to be part of that effort, though. It already has signed on as a sponsor of the 2005 National Marina Economic Impact Study launched by the Association of Marina Industries and the Recreational Marine Research Center.
In addition, Errath’s unique position at Brunswick has earned him the position of chairman of the Grow Boating task force, while NMMA Director of Marinas and Boating Access, Jim Frye, will staff it for the association.
They currently are recruiting for positions on the task force, which Frye hopes will include representatives from all segments of the industry, state and federal government, boating user groups, the research community and the real estate profession.
Organizers are aiming to hold the group’s first meeting at the end of July in Chicago, and will likely meet again in October at IBEX.

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