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Here’s an interesting question: Do state regulatory agencies do a good job of promoting boating? Truth is, I don’t know but I suspect some do and many don’t. One example of a state agency that clearly sees the importance of increasing interest in the sport is in the “Buckeye State.”

The Ohio Division of Watercraft used last week’s big Ohio State Fair as a backdrop for introducing attendees to boating in a hands-on way. In a masterful plan, Emily King, the Division’s public information & education manager, constructed a 40-by-100-foot pool at the Fair. She got the Oho Department of Transportation to donate old concrete highway dividers for the walls, purchased padding and a pool liner, and obtained a grant to launch 15 kayaks made of recycled plastic.

"We wanted to show people how much fun boating is," King explained. "Kayaking is easy to learn, so it made sense to do that."

It must have made sense to a lot of fair goers, too, as the exhibit launched an average of 40 kayak newbies per hour out in the pool with basic instructions and coaching.

Ohio’s Division of Watercraft, under the leadership of Chief Pam Dillon, has a long-standing record of aggressively promoting boating in Ohio, recognizing that all its funding comes solely from the state’s boaters, and working closely with the boating industry to advance the sport. It’s why Ohio is widely acknowledged as among the nation’s best at running a successful user-pay/user-benefit program. As is happening in Ohio, dealers and marine trades associations around the country need to purposely work with and encourage agencies in their states to move boating forward. It’s still another excellent way to “grow boating.”

And while we’re handing out kudos today, let’s send some out to the BoatU.S. Foundation as it marks its 20th Anniversary of providing grants to promote boating safety and clean water initiatives around the country. This year, the Foundation has set aside $50,000 for its program that will give direct support to organizations who develop innovative projects. Past projects awarded grants have ranged from flying "blimps" with boating safety messages and poster contests to radio and TV announcements highlighting life jacket wear. This year, program emphasis will be on projects that help reduce alcohol consumption in boating.

Grants of up to $4,000 will be available to local community organizations like boat and yacht clubs, flotillas, squadrons and similar non-profit groups. Applications are due November 1 and can be downloaded at http://www.BoatUS.com/foundation. To date, the Foundation has awarded more than $800,000 in such grants, an admirable accomplishment.

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