With an increasing number of development projects looking to utilize saltwater real estate, researchers are launching a massive survey in the northeastern United States to measure the impact and demands of the area’s recreational boaters.
With its first surveys due out in early June, the 2012 Northeast Recreational Boater Survey will solicit participation from the region’s 68,000 boaters to learn not only where they boat, but also how much they spend on boating-related activities.
Through October, researchers will ask boaters to map each boating trip on an online, interactive navigation chart, as well as record how much money they spend on their various boating-related activities.
The spatial information will prove valuable in debating the use of ocean real estate for various future projects, according to Nick Napoli, ocean planning project manager at the Northeast Regional Ocean Council.
In the past 10 years, potential new uses for coastal areas have skyrocketed, according to Napoli, with many associated with renewable energy such as wind farms and techniques for tidal energy, as well as LNG terminals for natural gas transport.
The survey’s results will allow planners to better assess a project’s potential impact on recreational boating.
“We are improving that information base so that when coastal managers are looking at new proposals they understand its effects on current boaters,” Napoli said.
Measuring activity from boaters in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York, the survey will also provide a wealth of statistics related to the economic value of ocean boating, said Kim Starbuck, survey manager at SeaPlan, the nonprofit organization conducting the survey.
For advocates of the marine industry, this information is vital in demonstrating the boating industry’s worth to legislators, according to Grant Westerson, president of the Connecticut Marine Trades Association.
“We can turn around and feed these numbers to legislature, show them the value in boating, how much it helps the economy, how many people it puts to work,” Westerson said.
Westerson said the survey results will be a valuable tool for both conservation efforts — protecting against non-marine zoning for waterfront land — and proposals for new boating-related ventures, which rarely receive the go-ahead.
“You see a nice piece of shoreline and want to build a marina, you and your grandchildren wont be able to see that happen,” he said.
The 2012 Northeast Recreational Boater Survey is similar to a survey ran in 2010 in Massachusetts. With coastal-area boating containing large amounts of overlap between states, Starbuck said the widened scope was necessary to get a true sense of the area’s boater activity.
SeaPlan will promote the results early next year and plans to give presentations about the survey to marine trade associations and other interested groups. A technical report and executive summary of the survey will be made available to the public at www.SeaPlan.org.
For more information on the survey, go to www.NEBoaterSurvey.org.