Six 2008 BoatU.S. Recreational Boating Access Award winners can show you how. The winning projects – in Florida, Ohio, Minnesota and North Carolina – offer a range of innovative solutions for communities struggling to keep their waterfronts open to boaters, anglers, and citizens. Communities that improve boating access can also reap economic rewards that local and visiting boaters bring to merchants, restaurants and service providers.
Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.) created the award program in 2007 to highlight successes in protecting water access as boaters and communities were losing marina slips, service yards and boat launching areas in many parts of the country.
Two projects added new boat launching facilities in their communities on Lake Erie in Sheffield Lake, Ohio, and Lake Superior, near Duluth, Minnesota.
In Sheffield Lake, city leaders worked for over five years to bring together land owners and the state to redevelop a nondescript park into a double-lane, free boat launching area with adequate parking and courtesy docks that will ultimately lead to a small-craft harbor with permanent dockage. The leaders faced a hostile commercial property owner, a disheartened citizenry with little community interest, and overcame significant funding issues. The city hopes to use the harbor as a lure to draw fishing tournaments as part of its economic development plan. The facility’s parking lot is now often filled to capacity with visitors and boaters.
In Minnesota, it was a long grass-roots struggle. A cross section of local stakeholders on the McQuade Public Access Committee with the Duluth city government and the state Department of Natural Resources worked for 16 years to overcome vocal opposition to finally develop a three-acre safe harbor and park on Lake Superior known as “McQuade Access.” The boat launching area and harbor of refuge nine miles from Duluth harbor accommodates 54 tow vehicles/trailers and was balanced with other community needs, such as incorporating non-boating access in the form of a fishing pier. On-site facilities are solar powered.
In North Carolina the award recognizes officials of Morehead City for its long-range water access plan that has led to several new access sites for small boats over the past 10 years plus a 10-slip transient facility for cruising boats that opened last year. The plan will culminate with a new boat launching area, Radio Island North, now under development. When finished, it will provide this rural coastal town with a population of just 10,000 with eight to 10 new ramps and parking for 140 tow vehicles and trailers.
In Florida, BoatU.S. recognized the City of Gulfport on Boca Ciega Bay for its Municipal Mooring Field to serve transient as well as local boaters. With this project significant local opposition had to be overcome due to some deep-seated bias against boaters caused by several highly visible derelict vessels left after storms, as well as the actions of some irresponsible boat owners. City leaders hope the project will improve visitor spending at local merchants and reverse the town’s standing among some mariners as being unfriendly to boaters by offering local transportation and services. Today, transient boaters are welcomed to Gulfport with a packet of information to get the most out of their stay.
In Glade County on Lake Okeechobee, a public-private partnership between the City of Moore Haven and the owners of River Forest Yachting Center in Stuart, FL, will rebuild a dilapidated city marina as a key component to its downtown redevelopment. Spearheaded by River Forest, the marina rebuild project will provide a hurricane safe haven and is seen as an economic development tool to capture transient boater spending — over 10,000 recreational vessels pass through each year. While there was no local organized boating community in the area to push the plan, $750,000 in cash and in-kind contributions came from the county economic development agency, electrical co-op and other local businesses and professionals. A new 450-foot floating dock, dredging, channel markers, and new upland construction of restrooms, showers and laundry are included.
The loss of boating access can take many forms, including how and when boaters may transport their boats to the water. The final Access Award went to a state lawmaker, North Carolina Rep. Arthur Williams, for his successful sponsorship of legislation, HB 2167, to revise state law for trailer boaters that was preventing trailers wider than eight-feet, six-inches access to state roads on weekends, holidays and at night – all prime travel times. Prior to the law, enforcement actions had led some boaters and anglers to think of the state as unfriendly to boating, and many fishing tournaments left the state. The legislation overcame misinformation spread by state agencies, had to pass 11 committees and also overrode a veto from Governor Easley.
“In each case, these projects represent excellent examples of the boating public’s ability to work together with community leaders to make an effective, reasoned case for expanding access,” said Charles Holmes, member of the BoatU.S. National Advisory Council, and an executive with Boy Scouts of America who served on the Access Award judging panel.
Another Access Award Judge, Dean Travis Clarke, executive editor of Sportfishing Magazine and also a member of the BoatU.S. National Advisory Council, said, “Each project we selected has elements that other boaters and boating groups can use in their local communities to keep boating strong, if they have the determination to do it, like these winners demonstrated.”
For information on the projects and winners, visit http://www.BoatUS.com/gov/AccessAward