|The Future of Marinas|
It’s no secret that the boating industry, like the rest of the economy, is hurting. There’s speculation about the health of manufacturers and concern about the future of our pastime. But while it’s easy to be dour, there are a lot of exciting changes on the horizon, especially when it comes to marinas.
Marinalife, a cruising concierge company, predicts a very active 2009 spring and summer boating season. Marinalife reported a 30% increase in online marina reservations in the U.S. and Bahamas during these first three weeks of January in comparison to last year.
But as boaters begin returning to their boats this year and in years beyond, what will they find at the dock? We decided to ask some of the top names in marina construction and development what they thought. Their answers were fairly wide-ranging, but there was some consensus.
“We deal with all different kinds of boating, from small boats on small lakes to the largest megayachts that visit marinas in this country, so we have a broad perspective,” said Scott Stevenson, Executive Vice President of Westrec Marinas, the largest owner and operator of marinas in the United States. “As we look to the future and how [marinas] are used, we see a greater usage of the boats while they’re in the slips and so it becomes all the more important to create a friendly, safe environment where people can have access to the boats and the amenities that they want.”
“Like real estate, it’s location, location, location,” Stevenson continued. “It’s no surprise that here in Chicago, people want premier locations. In terms of demand and amenities, as boats get larger and more complex, the need to update utilities and adapt to the new boat designs is important. . .
The marina of the future, therefore, will have the utilities, great access, great amenities like washrooms and ship stores and parking and those things that are necessary for boating access.”
Of course, despite the changes that will likely take place at marinas, it’s the people who use them that make them special. “Skipper Bud’s marina managers have noticed chemistry and a bond between their marina boaters that cannot be broken even if a family grows out of their boat and has to change docks,” says Betsey Arvai, Skipper Bud’s marketing director. “A new boat cannot even break up longtime dock mates. If someone on the dock has to move because the new boat doesn’t fit on the dock, Skipper Bud’s staff notices a gradual progression where a whole group will move to the bigger dock or buy a bigger boat so they can move to the bigger dock as well. On the sales side of things we have people tell us all the time that they are looking for a new boat but it has to fit in my 45 foot slip, they don’t want to move.”
What follows paints an optimistic picture of the future of marinas around the lakes. The experts foresee amenity-rich and environmentally-friendly marinas that offer much more than a place to moor your vessel. So, though things might be tough right now, the future of marinas is something to look forward to.
As our economy has shifted over the years from manufacturing and industry towards service and tourism, many waterfront communities on the Great Lakes are faced with new challenges and opportunities. Environmentally aware boaters want to be reassured that marinas are sensitive in their design and operation so that their boating activities can contribute to the preservation of the natural resources that are required for enjoyment of their pastime.
The most precious asset of any place is its local distinctiveness. This intangible quality is the main attraction for visitors and boaters looking for a rich and authentic experience. The concept of “destination stewardship” requires that we protect and preserve the uniqueness of a place, conserve its natural and cultural heritage, minimize negative impacts and ensure that benefits for transient boaters are shared with the people who live locally.