Photo Caption: The City of Clearwater's new downtown boat slip project brings boater spending to local businesses.
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Sometimes the road to improving boating access for a community is filled with curves and stop signs. In Clearwater, Florida, that long road goes back to 2000 when the first public referendum on building a new public dock facility failed. City officials went back to the drawing board and finally achieved success with a third referendum in 2007 that resulted in today's new public dock facility in the heart of downtown.
For its ability to bring much needed boating access that includes 126 permanent slips, over 1500-feet of "side-tie" docks for overnight stays and 650-feet of free "side-tie" dockage for day use, the City of Clearwater is honored with a 2010 BoatUS Recreational Boating Access Award.
BoatUS (Boat Owners Association of The United States) created the award program in 2007 to highlight successes in protecting water access as boaters and communities were losing marina slips, service yards and boat launching areas. The goal is to draw national attention to innovative solutions and share success stories so that others may help to solve their own waterway access challenges.
The failure of the first referendum was due to the large scope of the initial waterfront revitalization project that also included a garage and ampitheater. Early on, a determined opposition misinformed the public on the project's scope and expressed concerns that the sight of floating boats and docks would harm shoreline views. Just days before the referendum was narrowly defeated in 2004, the group distributed a slick, colorful flyer that included items like fuel dock, fences and commercial fishing vessels that were never part of the plan.
Clearwater docks with sailboats
To counteract the opposition's negative messages, the City worked with a grass roots organized Citizens Action Committee made up of downtown businesses and residents to focus a positive information campaign. As the construction of the project was to be largely financed by a public bond, it also held focus groups in local neighborhoods and completed detailed market and feasibility studies. It reached out to other government entities for ideas on how to successfully fund and market the project, and secured grants from the Clearwater Downtown Redevelopment Board and the Community Redevelopment Agency. In March 2007, Clearwater voters approved the project.
Also included in the $12.8 million project was renovations to restrooms, showers, security, laundry, parking improvements, and space for a future ferry landing. For the non-boating public, improvements to the public promenade, boardwalk and fishing pier were designed to draw visitors and residents to the waterfront.
For more information or to see any of the 12 Access Award winners for 2010, go to www.BoatUS.com/AccessAwardWinner.
BoatUS - Boat Owners Association of The United States - is the nation's leading advocate for recreational boaters providing over half a million members with government representation, programs and money-saving services. For membership information visit www.BoatUS.com or call 800-395-2628