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Marina would be for more than just the rich

October 21, 2005|By MIKE WHITEHEAD

Ahoy.

The saga of Marinapark gets better and better. Soon it will become another reality TV show to see who becomes king of the sea. Now the resort hotel is back on the playing field, and this is causing an uproar, especially from what I read in the Forum section of the Pilot.

So the saga continues as to what will be built on the last remaining city-owned, bay-front property in the largest recreational harbor in the world.

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I have noticed a pattern of the letters against a marina being built. They suggest that a marina would only serve wealthy people with their mega-yachts. Well, that does not reflect the beliefs of the boating community, and the writers have no idea of the boating needs and lack of amenities in this harbor.

The majority of boaters are not wealthy. They are middle-class working people who use boating for recreation. As a matter of fact, the average boat is less than 26 feet long, and an outboard model had an average price in 2004 of $12,360. The National Marine Manufacturers Assn. states that the median household income for new boat owners falls between $75,000 and $99,000, while the household income for pre-owned boat owners falls in the $50,000 to $74,000 range.

I hear the number of total vessels in Newport Harbor is somewhere between 9,000 and 12,000, and people should take the time to actually look out at the boats in the harbor. Most are smaller boats, and I would guess only a dozen are mega-yachts.

The major problems are the lack of slip space and very limited public guest docks for any boater, whether day sailing or visiting from a faraway port.

People should also remember that boating generates huge dollars for the local economy. In 2004, recreational boating contributed approximately $33 billion to the nation's economy, up more than 8% from 2003, according to the marine association.

Other harbors in Southern California have recognized the value of boating by revitalizing boating amenities with new docks, new launch ramps, waterfront walkways and increased public access. The California Department of Boating and Waterways has grants and loans available for qualifying projects that could be used for the development of Marinapark boating facilities.

I envision in the future a public guest dock with shore-side facilities. Plus, I see a family spending quality time together boating, but now they can dock at the guest dock to use the restrooms or eat lunch in the park.

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