Water Access Task Force plots a course

Continued access to America’s waterways is a key focus of Grow Boating efforts. Trends toward diminishing access continue as a primary threat to boating, and steps are actively being taken to ensure water access is preserved and protected for the current crop of America’s boaters.

The Grow Boating Initiative’s Water Access Task Force met at the Miami International Boat Show and narrowed its focus on what is proving to be a very broad challenge. The task force focused on a number of priorities to shape its strategy in attacking the various threats to boating access.

First is an effort to influence local decision making to both preserve and expand boating access. The specific tactics for addressing this issue include the development of content and identification of the appropriate audience(s) for an advocacy, public relations and communications “Tool Kit.” This could be used to communicate the value of marinas, boating access facilities and water dependent development to communities, planners and decision makers.

Additionally, there is interest in improving the policy, permitting and regulatory environments to facilitate preservation of marinas and boating access facilities. The strategic tactics identified in this objective include: develop a national boating and waterway policy addressing access and the simplification of government regulatory processes like permitting; research and document the national and state permitting process and requirements for waterfront, marina and boating facilities development; create good practices, models and templates; and make recommendations to change the regulatory system based on best practices.

Another focal area is the creation of new opportunities by partnering with government to access public lands for use as boating access sites. The intention is to identify and inventory lands in public ownership that are suitable for marina development, as well as drafting a research paper to spur marina development by providing a “blueprint” to guide conversion of “Brownfields” into marinas and boating facilities.

The Task Force is also placing increased emphasis on data collection and analysis. The hope here is to research and develop a complete inventory of water access sites including marinas and boat ramps. This inventory should include not only location information for each site, but additional information important to users such as size of the facility, nature of the boats accommodated, amenities and (repair) services available. It’s anticipated this inventory project will take some time to complete, and so a short-term report card capturing macro trends in boat access will be addressed.

Finally, a significant priority of the group is development of a boating access communication network. There is a definite need to build a network of local interests representing key individuals that can act as advocates for water access. Delivering resources at the local level, where access is threatened, is paramount to assisting in the preservation of boating access facilities and needs to a significant part of any national program organized on this topic.

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