BoatUS government affairs vice president Chris Edmonston urged Congress during a hearing on Wednesday to ensure that tough budget times do not jeopardize recreational boating access in America’s national parks.
In testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee, Edmonston highlighted the importance of public access to public land and waters.
“To state the obvious, without adequate waterway access there is virtually no opportunity to go boating … [we] suggest that investment in facilities that provide access to public lands and waters should remain a priority,” Edmonston, who is concurrently BoatUS Foundation president, told the committee.
A member of the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable, Edmonston referred in his testimony to boating trouble spots such as the limited weekend boat launch ramp access at South Padre Island National Island Seashore in Texas and the unwelcoming fishing access policies, shortage of boat moorings and bans of certain boat types at Biscayne National Park in Florida.
Edmonston also pointed out the success of pubic-private partnerships that can meet the needs of boaters. He cites BoatUS’s own TowBoatUS on-the-water assistance service, which began as a result of federal cost-saving measures and today preserves Coast Guard resources for emergency missions while giving boaters the routine towing services they need.
BoatUS also embraces the increasing use of technology “as way to enhance access while protecting resources,” Edmonston said.
BoatUS points to mobile-friendly methods to obtain multiple licenses and permits and using technology to improve navigation as examples.
Also discussed in his testimony was the boater-funded Sportfish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, recently reauthorized through 2020. The “user pay — everyone benefits” fund uses taxes that boaters and anglers pay to match state, local and private investment for boating access, such as launch ramps or transient slips.
“Boaters are not looking for a free ride and are quite willing to pay reasonable fees, provided they can count on the facilities being available and well managed,” he said.