In late Summer of 2020, the Waterways Management Workgroup, funded through a nonprofit grant administered by the U.S. Coast Guard, distributed a nationwide survey for the purposes of developing a third edition of the Guide to Waterways Management.
Out of 1,787 completed responses, 1,445 respondents (80.86 percent) indicate their primary interest as Non-government – Waterway User when asked to self-classify as Government, Non- government – Business Interest or Non-Government – Waterway User. While this overwhelming response from one out of the three groups does not affect the content that will be contained in the Guide, the priorities indicated by this demographic does influence content priorities.
Respondents who self-identify as Government interests represent 11.75 percent of respondents, and those that self-identify as Non-government – Business Interest represent 7.39 percent of respondents. These percentages include only those responses that were considered ‘Complete.’ A ‘Complete’ response, as defined by SurveyMonkey, means the respondent answered all required questions and clicked ‘Done’ on the last page. When all responses were tallied, both ‘Complete’ and ‘Incomplete’ responses totaled 3,415 responses.
Respondents who self-identified as Non-government (Business Interest or Waterway User) were asked to indicate aspects of waterway activity that they considered most important. Of four answer choices (and the option to select ‘Other’), the selected aspect of waterway activity that lends itself to priority level for the Guide is the pursuit of sport, pleasure and event-based activities.
All respondents were asked to identify which aspects of waterway management they think are or will be the most impacted by new and evolving usage trends (only ‘complete’ responses were included). Of 10 answer choices, four selected aspects rose to the level of priority for the Guide. The four aspects of waterway management that respondents indicated they expect to be most impacted by new and evolving trends are: use of recreational power or sail vessels/activities (e.g. personal watercraft, airboats, surface effect ships, hovercraft/fishing, water or kite-skiing, cruising); human-powered recreational activities (e.g., swimming, canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, surfing); traffic operations for recreational users; and marinas, mooring, launching, service and maintenance.
All respondents were asked to identify what creates the greatest challenge on their waterway (only ‘complete’ responses were included). Of 13 answer choices and the option to select ‘Other,’ respondents were asked to select up to three. The seven topics that rose to the level of priority for inclusion in the Guide include: large crowds; personal watercraft (PWCs), airboats and similar vessels; motorized boats vs. paddle or rowing craft; wakes; recreational vessels vs. paddlers, swimmers, snorkelers, surfers, divers, etc.; derelict and at-risk vessels; and navigation, infrastructure, hazards (e.g. dams, weirs, submerged structures).
All respondents were asked to identify the three primary drivers of use conflicts on their waterway (only ‘complete’ responses were included). Of nine answer choices and the option to select ‘Other,’ respondents were asked to select up to three. The four topics that rose to the level of priority for the Guide include: reckless watercraft users (e.g. speed, alcohol use); user inexperience, lack of education; watercraft rental outfitters who provide no safety, navigation, or awareness information; and access points that are difficult to manage.
The final question asked of all respondents was to identify which aspects of waterway management are most important to meeting public needs and minimizing user conflict (only ‘complete’ responses were included). Of six answer choices and the option to select ‘Other,’ respondents were asked to select up to three. The five aspects that were identified as priority for the Guide include: public outreach, information, signage; authorities (who are) easy to find and approachable; authorities (who) encourage and listen to public comments; authorities (who) provide timely updates about regulations and current use; and periodic reviews conducted of regulations to continue or update.