Access to waterways is ‘essential’

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Boaters practice social distancing while anchored, with no rafting up, in Madeira Beach inlet on Florida's west coast.

Boaters practice social distancing while anchored, with no rafting up, in Madeira Beach inlet on Florida's west coast.

In the fight against coronavirus, marine trade associations are stepping up for their members so boats can continue to be a respite.

Our boat has always been our great escape. Whenever we shoved off from the dock, we left the work stress and daily grind of life on shore behind. Today is no different, except now it’s also our safe place.

As the war against COVID-19 rages, with social distancing orders throughout the country, our boat has become a safe haven. And thanks to the efforts of many marine trade associations to help local and state leaders understand the “essential” nature of local marine industries, boaters like us can still escape.

While boats in the North are just starting to launch for a new season, boaters in the South are escaping on board daily. What’s happening, for example, in Florida is a sure sign of what will be happening up North, and MTAs must remain vigilant in successfully representing their members’ interests. (See my March 19 Dealer Outlook for a relevant Ohio story.)

Another example: the Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association has been in steady contact with local authorities to successfully champion the value of keeping boat ramps, marinas and service facilities open. But it’s a two-way street. SWFMIA is also committed to educatingboaters on the importance of on-water social distancing through its Go Boating Florida website.

The SWFMIA message is:

Be A Responsible Boater! Getting out on the water to fish or cruise offers much-needed relief during COVID-19 social distancing, and while most lawmakers have no wish to restrict those activities, irresponsible behavior threatens to ruin time on the water for our entire boating community.

YOU are the key to keeping boat ramps, fuel docks and marine service businesses open when we need them most. Following a few simple rules will help keep us safe and allow us to enjoy our boats while adhering to CDC guidelines.

Thank you for doing your part to help prevent the spread of the virus and the closure of our boat ramps.

Actions In New Jersey

Meanwhile, the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey is supporting its members in a variety of other ways. First, MTANJ regularly does the homework and catalogs appropriate state information so members can easily access it in special editions of NJ Briefings and Updates.

Through Briefings, members get a direct link to all updates by the state. In addition, members can view any live and all past COVID-19 briefings from Gov. Phil Murphy, as well as directly accessing all of the governor’s executive orders.

“We think it’s equally important that we are reviewing, organizing and cataloging all of the federal and state programs that are available to support New Jersey’s small businesses,” says Melissa Danko, MTANJ executive director. “We’re particularly watching and advocating forindustry specific resources and information, and we make that available to our members through our website.”

At 4 p.m. today, Danko is directing members to join a webinar with Tim Sullivan, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. NJEDA has announced new initiatives to support businesses impacted by COVID-19. The webinar will provide valuable insight to these programs and answer a wide range of questions being asked by businesses.

Finally, Danko is urging members to join the webinar “Guidance for Employers on the Novel Coronavirus,” provided by the Association of Marina Industries. It’s slated for April 1, at noon. This is the second such session provided by AMI, and it’s recommended that anyone who missed the first session view that recording prior to attending tomorrow’s session.

Like MTANJ, we’re certain all dealers and marina operators everywhere can benefit by joining this webinar. Click here for the AMI webinar.

In the war against COVID-19, our boats are “essential” weapons for millions of American families. Boats bring us outside. That’s good for our health, reduces stress and serves family needs. Important business considerations notwithstanding, MTAs should be encouraging all relevant state and local agencies to recognize that keeping public access to waterways is “essential.”

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