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Ships not wanted on the Great Lakes?

Jun 9, 2007
Will ships and tugs and barges be banished in other harbors? In May, the Waukegan, Illinois, city council unanimously voted to ban commercial activity in the city 's Lake Michigan harbor and promote recreational boating instead. According to a federal study on the economic value of recreational boating on the Great Lakes, recreational boating brings substantial revenues and municipalities should promote it. According to the report, Great Lakes boaters: Spend $2.35 billion a year on boating trips. Spend $1.44 billion a year on boats, equipment and supplies. Create 60,000 jobs with $1.77 billion in personal income.

Siding with the Waukegan city council is the Great Lakes Boating Federation. From its press release on he subject: The Great Lakes Boating Federation, the advocacy voice for the nearly 4.3 million boaters on the Great Lakes, applauds the City Council of Waukegan, Illinois, for unanimously voting to convert its lakefront from an antiquated fixture of old industry into a hub of public access and a haven for lei-sure activities. The Waukegan City Council’s vote to ban commercial vessels from its harbor and embrace a recreational waterfront is a positive step for the economic vitality and the environmental health of the community.

The Great Lakes Boating Federation believes that the City of Waukegan, in choosing to develop recreational boating instead of commercial navigation, represents the opening of a floodgate as more and more cities are bound to realize the enormous economic and environmental benefits of converting their waterfronts from industrial activities to recreational waterfronts that support boat-ing and other forms of public access.

Whereas the industry that was built up along the shores of the Great Lakes left behind polluted waters and contaminated fish, recreational boating is a sustainable use that minimally impacts public health and the vitality of the ecosystem.

Moreover, the economic realities of globalization have resulted in a sharp decline in heavy industry in the Great Lakes region over the past three decades. Trends indicate that the rate of loss of the Midwest’s industrial base is increasing, not decreasing. Thus, cities such as Waukegan will need to fill the economic void of industries that have left the region. The prospects of economic growth in the service and leisure sectors, especially for cities and towns along the coasts of our Great Lakes, far exceeds the prospects for expanding a dwindling industrial base.

Most importantly, the current economic impact of recreational boating already exceeds the regional economic impact of commercial navigation. For example, the 5,200 boats moored in the City of Chicago’s nine harbors annually generate $80 million for the city. As the full benefits of recreational boating are still being quantified, preliminary data indicates that the recreational boating impact is five times that of commercial navigation: $25 billion annually compared to $5 billion.

The Great Lakes Boating Federation hopes that other communities will follow the bold steps taken by the City of Waukegan. Fostering the development of recreational boating along our lakes makes economic and environmental sense.