When it comes to recreational boating, we love our access to federal waters. But with problems like lack of funds for ramp/dock maintenance, aging marina infrastructure, and even government will, there can be obstacles to this access. Because one-fifth of the country’s land—including national parks—is overseen by the Department of Interior, Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatUS) looked forward to some recent time meeting with US Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in Washington. The agenda? Going over his agency’s support for keeping up boating infrastructure and increased access to federal waters.
Just part of a group of various outdoor recreation industry associations that met with the Secretary, one of the big goals of all those present was to shine a light on the economic importance of outdoor products and the joy they bring families across the nation; between boats, recreational vehicles, off-road vehicles, and camping, fishing and hunting gear, $887 billion is generated per year, offering an estimated 7.6 million direct jobs because of this.
In an aim to improve recreational boating opportunities for the millions of boat owners everywhere, BoatUS had good reason to enter the fray. Optimistically, during the meeting Secretary Zinke said when it comes to boating access, he’s “looking to not only maintain it, but enhance it…Public access via water provides an opportunity for improving infrastructure, from maintaining moorings to repairing docks. It’s a field where there can be an enormous amount of improvement.” He further promised, “Fixing the backlog of maintenance items will be a priority in upcoming budgets…We are going to catch up on infrastructure, restore trust and show Americans we can be good stewards of our public lands. Revenue from user fees, including contracts with private concessionaires should offset the cost of maintaining facilities. If we work together, everybody wins.”
As BoatUS Manager of Government Affairs David Kennedy put it, “Boaters need well-maintained, safe and modern boating amenities in good condition. We look forward to the Secretary’s help to address these needs with public-private partnerships. This is not the first time our parks have needed private investment — some of the first such partnerships in national parks were the early and now historic lodges built by the railroads. Well-managed access can be good for boaters, the federal government and for local economies. If you build it, they do come.”
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