Water-Borne Recreation: The Environmental Imperative

Every structure, parking space or kayak storage rack on the waterfront can be seen as an environmental negative. These things all take up open space, displace wildlife, and offend the visual aesthetic sensibilities of some park users.

However, as soon as we look at the regional environment, the equation becomes much more complex and the environmental value of these facilities, and the activities supported by them, often changes from negative to positive.

For every kayak, windsurfer or sailboat launched locally, there is one less SUV or other large vehicle driving a much longer distance to gain access to an equally attractive body of water.

For every kayak, windsurfer or sailboat stored on-site there is one less park user who is constrained to come to the park by car. Even when the user rarely takes public transit, on- site storage allows much shorter travel routes between work and recreation, and allows much smaller vehicles to be used.

For every entry-level participant who steps into a rental rowboat, who finds a spot on a dragon boat team, or who begins to take kayak lessons, there is one less person engaged in some other form of recreation that involves burning a lot of fuel or driving a long distance. But entry-level activities require on-site storage facilities, so the local negatives of boat storage need to be weighed against the regional benefits to air quality and traffic congestion.

Continuing environmental protection depends on political factors that need broad support to succeed. Stewardship is the key word. Non-motorized boating is a breeding ground for the future stewards of the Bay and the shoreline.

Every time a new participant becomes engaged in a non-motorized water-borne activity, there is a strong probability that another dedicated protector and advocate of a clean and healthy Bay will be created.

The attraction of floating on water is compelling. There is a connection between the floating human and the Bay that is seldom achieved by walking along the shore as a passive observer.

The emotional, sociological, and health benefits of providing diverse recreational opportunities close to a large population center are very difficult to quantify. But these effects are real, and they influence the way in which our culture treats the natural environment. Water-borne recreation is a vital element of the Eastshore State Park, and a necessary strategy for the long term environmental health of our shoreline.

Coalition for Park Access and Conservation