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TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- A four-year study of Florida’s boating facilities and the economics of boating in this state is just in, and the numbers are enough to make your head swim.
For instance, Florida boaters spent $3.384 billion on boat trips in 2007. That’s on top of the $5.15 billion they spent for repairs, marina expenses and other costs not associated with specific boat trips.
To put those numbers into perspective, consider this. If a business opened 2,000 years ago and made $1,000 per day since then, it still would have more than seven centuries to go before it made its first $1 billion, according to David Harding, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) economist who managed the study. Boaters spend eight and a half times that in a single year in Florida.
The 572-page report, titled “Florida Boating Access Facilities Inventory and Economic Study, including a Pilot Study for Lee County,” notes that boating trips and other spending related to vessels support 97,000 jobs in Florida. Boaters took 21.7 million boat trips in 2007.
The report predicts a 1.83-percent decline statewide in boating demand over the next 16 years in Florida. About half the 63 counties in the study will see a decrease in boating by 2025 because of changes in demographics of the state’s population.
Harding said the study will help state and local governments plan whether to maintain or construct new boat ramps or marinas and where to situate them. It identifies features and characteristics of boating access points for site selection favored by boaters for freshwater and marine access on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
“The results of the study show the importance of launch lanes, parking lots and their overall condition, as well as the area’s level of development – the number of developed facilities, such as restrooms, at the ramp.” Harding said. “Artificial reefs, seagrass and management zoning are some of the important characteristics in site selection for boaters using marine access ramps.”
For freshwater boating access, boaters preferred sites with restrooms, the presence of marinas and available parking, he said.
The study projects a price tag of $68 million to $111 million to maintain boaters’ access to water at the 2006 level.
The entire report is available as a PDF document at MyFWC.com/About.