Working waterfronts – a national context: Part 2

Some highlights from 4th Triennial Conference on National Working Waterfronts and Waterways

As discussed in Working Waterfronts – a national context:  Part 1 (November 2015), working waterfronts are waterfront lands, infrastructure, and waterways that are used for a water-dependent activity, such as ports, small recreational boat harbors, fishing docks, and hundreds of other places across the country where people use and access the water. Florida Sea Grant, the National Sea Grant Law Center, and the Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium sponsored the 4th National Working Waterfronts & Waterways Symposium which was held in November 2015 in Tampa, Fla. More than 200 people from 24 states and Ontario, Canada, attended the symposium.

The goal of the symposium was to increase the capacity of saltwater- and freshwater-based coastal communities and for stakeholders to make informed decisions, balance diverse uses, ensure access, and plan for the future of their working waterfronts. Presentations from Michigan and Michigan Sea Grant were featured at the symposium, which included a strong emphasis on cultural and historical preservation and conservation.

The event also highlighted the premiere of a new website, Preserving the Working Waterfront: Stories From The Nation’s Coasts, a series of 10 case studies from around the country that provide ideas, strategies, and documentation. Fishtown in Leland, Mich., was one of the featured profiles. Author, folklorist and historic preservation consultant Laurie Sommers was interviewed about her work in Fishtown and shared in a plenary session at the conference. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also has recently featured an article on this new oral history collection and features pictures of Michigan’s Fishtown.

Symposium organizers are working on a synopsis of the symposium that is expected to be available in Spring 2016. A similar “Sense of the Symposium” was produced by Washington Sea Grant as part of the 2013 National Symposium held in Tacoma.

Michigan Sea Grant and MSU Extension continues funding and active involvement in a small harbor sustainability research and outreach project in which has involved a coastal community along each of our four Great Lakes. The communities are New Baltimore, Pentwater, Au Gres and Ontonagon. Each of these small harbor communities has their own scale working waterfronts and these areas are integral to the communities’ long-term sustainability. From this research, there will be transferrable lessons captured and toolkits developed to share with other communities as we strive to use, steward and enjoy our Great Lakes.

Working waterfronts, possibly an overlooked part of a coastal community, are cornerstone areas that interface with water dependent commerce and activities. Let’s keep our waterfronts working and continue to share lessons and challenges for sustainable and prosperous communities.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

Read the first story in this 2-part series: Working waterfronts - a national context: Part 1

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