For years many industry experts have intuitively felt that the boating public was losing access to our nation’s waterways. So the Water Access Task Force under the Grow Boating Initiative established a Statistics Focus Group and charged them with the task of measuring access. It didn’t take long for that group to realize that developing the data to measure access is a daunting task. The cost is prohibitive. Even worse, it would take so long to conduct an accurate nationwide survey that the data would become obsolete before any such survey could be finished.
But if we are to influence local decision-making in favor of supporting access initiatives, the data is needed. Local public officials are concerned with their local economies. The ones who recognize that boating creates jobs and offers significant economic benefits for their towns and counties are more inclined to support efforts to preserve and increase access to waterways. But we really need that hard data to show them the impact boating has on their communities. Up to now, very little has existed.
Charged with finding ways to measure access and its economic impact, our Statistics Focus Group, worked with Dr. Ed Mahoney of Michigan State University. Together they brought the Boating Access Surveillance and Indexing System (BASIS) to the Water Access Alliance. BASIS offers detailed insights into changes in available access. The system uses satellite photography, statistical analysis and complex software to study specific test samples. Over time, BASIS can determine exactly what has changed. Slips at marinas, dry storage capacity, private docks, launching ramps and ramp parking are all considered in the analysis. In the end, BASIS can determine just how much and how quickly boaters in a given area are gaining or loosing access to their local waterways.
Next, the group developed an Economic Impact Model to help local communities put a value on boating activities taking place within their boundaries. With this computer-based model, users enter simple data such as the number of slips, approximate boat size, location, etc. The model then determines the overall economic value to the local community in both dollars and jobs.
By combining these tools, the Water Access Alliance can now let local officials know what they could lose in real dollars and real jobs if boating access in their communities is reduced. We can also show them exactly what they will gain in new community revenue and job opportunities if they work to increase access.
Focus Group Leader: Jerry McDonough