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Saving marinas, boat yards and access must be pushed

Where have all the marinas gone? It’s a question we don’t want to be asking in the future. But we just may be if we don’t get to work on an issue that’s critical to our industry’s long term future. It’s saving the rapidly disappearing “working waterfronts” in America.

To reverse a trend that has developers wolfing down waterfront access sites for high rise condos, Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine has introduced H.R. 2548, the “Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act of 2009.” It’s a bill designed to give coastal and Great Lakes states federal grant funds to purchase threatened marinas, launch ramp sites, boat yards and commercial fishing docks outright. Further, it would also allow a non-profit group to obtain a grant to buy development rights in order to keep a working boatyard in business, rather than see it sold for residential development.

Right now, Pingree’s bill has 22 co-sponsors (see below). These lawmakers have clearly recognized the importance of keeping working waterfronts from disappearing. The bill deserves a lot more support, and the boating industry and boat owners need to step up and make that happen.

On Capitol Hill in October, Pingree testified before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife. That committee is chaired by Rep. Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, who is also a cosponsor of the bill. Moreover, despite significant bipartisan support for H.R. 2548, the Obama Administration has indicated it opposes the bill. For the moment, the bill remains in the Natural Resources Committee, awaiting some other legislation to which it could the attached or, although less likely, possibly moving ahead as a stand-alone bill.

MRAA, NMMA, BoatUS and other organizations are working to encourage the Obama Administration to reconsider its opposition. But in addition to that, we can all push to get our Congressional reps on board. New York Post columnist Ken Moran recently wrote: “Even in this slow economy, developers eye waterfront parcels and water-dependent businesses such as marinas, boat yards, commercial fishing operations and boat builders, and turn them into high-end residential communities.” That says it all!

Now is the time to email your Congressional rep and ask them to contact Rep. Chellie Pingree’s office and learn about becoming a co-sponsor of H.R. 2548. Truth is, there shouldn’t be a Congress person whose district borders a Great Lake or any coastal area that wouldn’t want to be a co-sponsor. But, they need to be made aware the bill is there and you want there support for it.

In addition to those previously mentioned, current co-sponsors include: Capps, Calf.; Capuano, Mass.; Christensen, Virgin Islands; Connolly, Va.; Delahut, Mass.; Farr, Calif.; Filner, Calif.; Frank, Mass.; Hodes, N.H.; Inslee, Wash.; Kennedy, R.I.; Klein, Fla.; Kratovil, Md.; Langevin, R.I.; McGovern, Mass.; McIntyre, N.C.; Michaud, Maine; Moran, Va.; Thompson, Calif.; Tierney, Mass. and Wittman, Va.

If your representative isn’t on this list, ask why not?


10 comments on “Saving marinas, boat yards and access must be pushed

  1. tired politics

    This boat dealer blog has turned into a constant rant for regarding the wasted ABCDEFG boat organizations/associations. Boat dealers should be focused on retailing & servicing boats, not politics. All these groups have done nothing but reach in our pockets without any results.

  2. Scott Croft

    Dear Tired Politics-

    I respectfully disagree with your comment.

    Yes, dealers should be focused on retailing & servicing boats, but to put your head into the sand and not look beyond your business’ front door towards important issues affecting recreational boating is myopic.

    Our members need your businesses to remain viable and your business need my members. I cannot imaging not working with you on such important issues that affect us both such as waterway access and many others (ethanol, etc.) Like it or not, politics has the serious ability to determine how many (or how few) new customers will come through your front door, and I appreciate the fact that Norm Schultz understands this.

    -Scott Croft
    BoatUS Public Affairs

  3. Komrade Karl

    So Let’s talk spark plugs, injectors, & gelcoat shall we…
    Every industry is concerned with how this changing government has, is, & will effect us.
    Thanks for heads up Norm will make contact with appropriate leaders??

  4. Capt. Bob Armstrong

    I, too, feel compelled to admonish Tired Politics for having such a short-sighted viewpoint. Once again, you’ve done the industry a huge favor, Norm. I hope peolple respond to your heads up. As I wrote in my book, Your First Powerboat–How to Find, Buy, and Enjoy the Best Boat for You, in a chapter entitled: “Where will you keep it” (after I had mentioned that slips were becoming scarce because boating-oriented waterfront properties were rapidiy disappearing.) “My objective here is to acknowledge the problem and also report that it is being recognized and addressed, at least at some levels, and hope that this action will be impetus for all of us who love boats to get involved also and agitate for better access where we live, because the most important action will always occur locally—wherever there’s water and people who want to go boating on it. But no matter how much progress we make, the overall trend is still a bit scary and we can never again be complacent. Just because easy water access has “always” been available where you live is no assurance it will continue to be. All signs seem to indicate that if we don’t fight for easy and plentiful access to our waterways we’ll lose it. So let’s keep up the fight.” That fight is important for ALL of us who love and use boats, but especially so for those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to make a living froim something we enjoy so much. If we DON’T fight for continued waterfront access on every level possible, it won’t be long before we find ourselves unable to go boating, period. And this will affect ALL of us, builder, dealer and boat owner alike. Without continuing waterfront acdess, we’ll all be up that well known tributary without any visible means of propulsion.

  5. steve s

    I agree with tired politics. Most of Norm’s blogs are political. Last I checked, a dealers bottom line has very little to do with politics. A dealer that makes political issues their priotity is on the fast track to a chapter 11.

  6. Boatman11

    The problem has been that many of those in the marina industry who were buying up much of this “scarce” and “threatened” waterfront property over the last half dozen years while at the same time decrying the awful hi-rise residential condo developers, were planning to do the same thing themselves. Most were planning on building expensive dockominiums and Hi-Rise Rackominiums which would effectively have left the average boater without an affordable place to store their boat. The marina developers all were chasing after the same 10% of the affluent boat owners…..pretty similar to the residential developers. If that business plan didn’t crash and burn it would have been waterfront access primarily for the wealthy elite…..with most Marine industry organizations cheering them on.
    Now they want to fight for waterfront access….and save the industry from “condo development”….unless of course it is their own.

  7. Elmus

    Like any industry, a downturn is actually a healthy thing and is part of a cycle. For years on Lake Erie real estate developers jumped into the marina business adding more and more docks to Lake Erie despite boat registrations not justifying that growth. Here we are years later with a glut of docks who’s prices have been stagnate for nearly a decade as a result. It is going to take the weaker marinas going under to make our industry stronger for the future. There are plenty of docks on Lake Erie, and there always will be. If there is a demand, someone will meet it.

  8. Captain Andrew

    I agree with Boatman11.

    New owners of marinas want to add Condos/Townhomes to the marina property. In many ways this affects the available marina space and increases costs for the consumer. In my opinion, purchasing the boat is not the most expensive part of boating for the consumer. I think the most expensive part of boating is the marina/winter storage costs. Marina/storage costs very often more than doubles the cost of boat ownership. The #1 issue facing the industry is access to affordable dock/marina space.

    The waterfront house/condo markets are the single most pressure slowly pushing recreational boaters out of the affordability curves.

  9. M Gurnsey

    So states can buy marinas and waterfront facilities- and do what with them? There are a lot of regulations that states are pushing that will effectively drive marinas out of business as owners run out of money to implement questionable “green” technologies.

    So the state can drive marina owners out of business, use federal funds to purchase the land, and run the marina. Then enact rediculous rules and regulations (like Seattle’s “No Boat Washing” rules). And forget about having working service facilities at wterfront locations. How is this helping?

    How about laws that will help keep small business owners in business, and preserve access to marinas and service centers for boaters. Government does a lousy job of running services fro the public. get the regulations to a reasonable level, and let business owners suceed or fail based on their performance, not based on what government determines.

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