Opinions of Maine Boaters Needed
Everyone wants to know more about Maine boaters. Both the state and federal governments are surveying Maine boaters. The feds want to know where you go, what you do in your boat, and what you want and need in the future.
A total of 68,000 boaters in the five New England states and New York received a mailed invitation to participate in a federal online survey conducted by SeaPlan, an ocean research nonprofit group. It’s designed to provide data to the feds to “create a balanced approach to using the country’s ocean resources.”
The information will be used as the feds consider ocean development projects from wind turbines to aquaculture pens – so this is very important for Maine. If you got the invitation, please respond!
Here in Maine, every boater has the opportunity to chime in on three short surveys about the state’s boat launches and navigational aids. The boating program at Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands wants to “improve its customer service.”
The agency purchases, develops, and manages most of the state’s boating facilities and navigational aids on our lakes, ponds, and rivers. Along with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, BPL maintains more than 400 public boating facilities.
That may sound like a lot, until you know that Maine has 5780 lakes and ponds and 31,218 miles of rivers and streams. The program is funded with a small percentage of the state sales tax on gasoline, and it is entirely inadequate to the task.
George Powell, the longtime and very capable manager of the state’s boating program, told me he’s getting a great response so far to the online survey, but hopes for many more surveys as the summer progresses. Agency staff will also be putting postage paid survey cards on boaters’ windshields at public launches this summer.
You can access the three brief surveys at the agency’s website. They are asking about your experience on specific waters. Which water bodies need new access sites? Which need improved access? Where should new navigational aids be placed? One survey asks you to name the launch sites you use and tell them your level of satisfaction with the sites, including parking.
Don’t make the mistake of ignoring this great opportunity to tell George Powell about your experiences and needs as a Maine boater. The responses may determine where the state spends its very limited dollars for water access in the future.
Powell’s team has been working with an outdated 15-year-old boating facilities strategic plan. Among other deficiencies, the plan doesn’t provide a list of priority waters for new or improved access sites. I participated in the creation of the 1995 strategic plan, and lobbied successfully to emphasize the creation of new access sites in that plan. The original plan emphasized redevelopment of 100 existing sites.
Eight years ago, the Baldacci Administration selected a large number of people to create a new strategic plan for boating facilities. Powell led the effort, which broke down in acrimony and disagreement amongst the group’s participants. Hence, the 15-year-old outdated plan that is still in place today.Perhaps the information gathered this year from boaters will encourage the creation of a plan that can guide the state’s water access program in the next decade.
And one more important piece of information. The Boating Facilities Division has established a toll-free telephone line, “so people with any questions about a recreational boating facility can call us,” said Powell. Now, go online and complete those surveys!