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Bernice McArdle is ending an outstanding 16-year career with the National Marine Manufacturers Association in which she has served in multiple key positions. While her list of accomplishments is long as executive director of the Personal Floatation Device Manufacturers Association, none top her effectiveness as the executive director of the all-important States Organization for Boating Access.
Most of you don’t know Bernice. If you did, like me, you’d recognize her inimitable ability to coordinate a wide array of interests, something no more obvious than in her work with SOBA. “Bernice is also one of the most beloved people I have known,” NMMA president Thom Dammrich says. “She’s admired by all she works with in the industry and on our staff.”
Interestingly, SOBA isn’t really a household name for many in our industry. But its value cannot be overstated. By its nature, coordinating it can be a challenge. That’s because SOBA is a non-profit organization made up of professionals from federal and state governmental agencies along with member manufacturers and industry suppliers – a mixed bag to be sure.
Yet, wide-ranging backgrounds aside, this group is single-minded in its mission to cause the development and improvement of public boating facilities across the nation. More specifically, SOBA is the only national organization devoted to boating access and stimulates facility acquisition, design, construction and financing.
Funded by the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund (aka Wallop-Breaux act), it designates money to the states to build and repair public boat access. It’s also recognized as a top national source of research, technical publications and expertise related to ramps and marina facilities.
SOBA includes boating officials from every state and five territories, along with engineering firms, equipment manufacturers and many others. In particular, marine dealers across the country should recognize the job SOBA does to make sure their customers can get to the water? SOBA technical expertise has not only contributed to thousands of launch ramps, but more pump-out facilities through the Clean Vessel Act and the construction of thousands of new transient docks under the Boating Infrastructure Grant program.
“Better Access * Better Boating” is the theme of this year’s SOBA National Boating Access Conference and it couldn’t be more reflective of the group’s passion and the benefits for our industry and America’s boaters from SOBA’s work. The Conference is slated for Oct. 10-13 at the River City of Chattanooga, Tenn., hosted by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
SOBA will mark its 30 anniversary during the conference, which will focus on why maintenance and growth of state waterways is so important and feature a variety of breakout program tracks, including engineering, boating access, clean vessel and boating infrastructure, in addition to a federal-aid workshop and plenary session program. For information, go to www.sobaus.org
The NMMA will continue to provide management for SOBA, albeit with Bernice’s departure, management will now be from the NMMA’s Washington D.C., offices.