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State will develop strategic plan for boaters

As the Oregon State Marine Board embarks on its second 50 years, its leaders are looking for ways to bring nonmotorized boaters into the fold and serve them better.

The agency, which traditionally has catered mostly to powerboaters, is in the midst of creating a strategic plan to chart its course over the next five years — including how to reach out to the growing number of kayakers, canoeists and others who use Marine Board programs.

"We recognize that we serve that constituency and we also recognize that we're not very good at it, and we're trying to improve it," Marine Board policy analyst Randy Henry says.

But this is not a way of registering the estimated 100,000 human-powered boats 10 feet or longer in Oregon or requiring their owners to pay fees, Henry says.

These and other issues — ranging from alcohol enforcement, conflicts between powerboaters and nonmotorized boaters and even environmental issues — are being vetted during a series of public-outreach efforts the Marine Board is making toward Oregon's boating public.

The effort marks the first time the agency has invited boaters to help develop a plan to guide the agency's future, and they are taking a 21st century approach to it.

Agency leaders are reaching out to boaters through social-media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as through its website at www.boatoregon.com and a series of public meetings.

The public-meeting tour will come to the Rogue Valley Monday, Nov. 15, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Jackson County Training Center meeting room, 7520 Table Rock Road in Central Point.

Previous meetings have been held in Corvallis and Bend, and future meetings are scheduled for Portland and LaGrande, Henry says.

The Marine Board's roughly $17 million annual budget is paid through user fees, federal grants and motorboat fuel taxes. The agency receives no state general-fund money through the Oregon Legislature.

The agency was formed in 1959 to help the public access waters of the state, to begin an education program to promote boating safety and create a registration system to track and manage motorized watercraft in Oregon.

The registered boats were all motorized boats and sailboats over 12 feet long. Registration of those crafts peaked in 1999 and has slowly declined, while non-motorized boats like kayaks and canoes have increased dramatically.

But non-motorized boats do not require registration or fees to pay for the facilities paddlers use or the law-enforcement efforts to keep them safe.

The only fee these boaters have paid is a one-time, $5 fee used to fund a new program shared with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to battle non-native invasive species that can be transported between waterways on boats.

Henry says boaters have told the Marine Board they would like to see more boat-cleaning stations to help them curb the transport of aquatic plants and animals on hulls and in bilge water.

A draft plan is expected to be completed early in the next legislative session that starts in January.

Henry says the plan likely will include creating advisory groups to focus on some of these issues.

For more information about the public workshops, completing an online survey or participating in an online blog, visit www.boatoregon.com.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.