Boaters need help from Legislature
The inability of the majority of Hawaii's leaders to appreciate how investments in our state's recreational boating infrastructure can pay big dividends has been a perennial theme in this column for more than a decade.
As far back as June 1993, Water Ways readers learned that an economist's study put the annual financial impact of recreational boating here at $62.5 million, and that the annual visits from international fleets of yacht racers added several million more.
It was noted at the time that such numbers should justify the development of additional boating facilities, but little did we know that even as our economy was beginning to recover from the shake-out of Japan's overextended investors, the few marinas we had would begin to disintegrate due to a lack of maintenance funding.
This all came to mind after reading Richard Borreca's column in last Sunday's Star-Bulletin that asked, "Is sun setting on Hawaii's future?"
Borreca voiced concerns for sustainability in isolated economies such as ours, and he quoted the predictions for the future in the opening day address of Republican Senate leader Fred Hemmings.
Referring to the Legislature's recent plan for sustainability by the year 2050, Hemmings warned, "We cannot wait until 2050 to achieve sustainability."
From my perspective, economic sustainability is greatly encouraged by a diversified economy, but with its near total dependency on tourism and military spending, Hawaii displays the antithesis of such diversification.
So what could be added?
No one would accuse me of being a futurist, but it doesn't take much imagination to picture thousands of graying baby-boomers viewing Hawaii as a perfect location to spend their retirement years, as well as their children's inheritance.
And their spending would, of course, be manifested in the millions of dollars they would pay out annually for everything from housing, food and transportation, to entertainment, recreation and health care.
The total range of those goods and services would have to be available, though, for Hawaii to compete with the likes of Florida and the rest of the Sun Belt. And unfortunately, at least one -- our recreational boating infrastructure -- is lagging far behind.
Even though the state is slowly replacing many of the docks that had been condemned in recent years, the total number of available slips will still remain the same. How can we expect any boat-loving retiree to find Hawaii attractive when the state's waiting list for slips at most harbors is five years or more?
There's a very good reason Hawaii has the fewest registered boats of any state. It's our lack of quality boating facilities. And it doesn't take long for anyone to notice.
Perhaps this will be the year our Legislature will take at least one positive step to correct this imbalance of supply and demand by passing House Resolution 200.
The measure is just a request to the Department of Natural Resources to conduct a feasibility study for creating a private/public partnership to develop a marina near Keehi Lagoon. It's not much, but it's a start.