Guest Column: The Great Lakes’ future relies on recreational boating

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11836631779717.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of http://www.epa.gov‘, ‘Waukegan, Ill. Harbor: The Waukegan City Council’s vote to ban commercial vessels from its harbor and embrace a recreational waterfront is a positive step for the economic vitality and the environmental health of the community.‘);

The Great Lakes Boating Federation, the advocacy voice for the nearly 4.3 million boaters on the Great Lakes, applauds the City Council of Waukegan, Ill., for unanimously voting to convert its lakefront from an antiquated fixture of old industry into a hub of public access and a haven for leisure activities. The Waukegan City Council’s vote to ban commercial vessels from its harbor and embrace a recreational waterfront is a positive step for the economic vitality and the environmental health of the community.

The Great Lakes Boating Federation believes that the City of Waukegan, in choosing to develop recreational boating instead of commercial navigation, represents the opening of a floodgate as more and more cities are bound to realize the enormous economic and environmental benefits of converting their waterfronts from industrial activities to recreational waterfronts that support boating and other forms of public access.

Whereas the industry that was built up along the shores of the Great Lakes left behind polluted waters and contaminated fish, recreational boating is a sustainable use that minimally impacts public health and the vitality of the ecosystem.

Moreover, the economic realities of globalization have resulted in a sharp decline in heavy industry in the Great Lakes region over the past three decades. Trends indicate that the rate of loss of the Midwest’s industrial base is increasing, not decreasing. Thus, cities such as Waukegan will need to fill the economic void of industries that have left the region. The prospects of economic growth in the service and leisure sectors, especially for cities and towns along the coasts of our Great Lakes, far exceeds the prospects for expanding a dwindling industrial base.

Most importantly, the current economic impact of recreational boating already exceeds the regional economic impact of commercial navigation. For example, the 5,200 boats moored in the City of Chicago’s nine harbors annually generate $80 million for the city. As the full benefits of recreational boating are still being quantified, preliminary data indicates that the recreational boating impact is five times of commercial navigation: $25 billion annually compared to $5 billion.

The Great Lakes Boating Federation hopes other communities will follow the bold steps taken by the City of Waukegan. Fostering the development of recreational boating along our lakes makes economic and environmental sense.

F. Ned Dikmen is chairman of the Great Lakes Boating Federation based in Chicago, Ill.

from the July 5-10, 2007, issue

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