Summit stirs interest among marine groups, cities

Often, dry regulatory meetings between marine advisory groups can be counted on for at least one positive result, at least among the general public: some good nap time.

Not this time.

A first-ever meeting in January between marine advisory boards, marine patrols and the boating industry is attracting the kind of interest that’s usually unheard of in county governmental circles.

“This is an opening for future cooperation,” said John Fiore, a Broward County planner and the liaison with the Marine Advisory Committee. He pulled together and organized what he calls the first Broward County marine summit.

Fiore said there was no one particular problem that prompted the meeting, but he hopes it can become the first step toward resolving issues that have often plagued the South Florida marine industry.

He hopes it becomes an annual event. “There’s no reason it can’t be,” he said.

He views the summit as an opportunity for members of marine groups, marine patrols, government entities and navigation districts to meet one another, “and for others to see what we in the county can do for the cities as far as projects and services.”

That includes a broad array of boating improvement programs: Broward County helps fund recreational boating facilities such as public boat ramps and boat docks and marinas. The county also provides funds for law enforcement in Lighthouse Point, Wilton Manors, Hollywood, Hallandale Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Fort Lauderdale and the Broward Sheriff’s Office itself.
And BSO helps provide law enforcement and boating patrol services in freshwater canals and the Everglades to Dania Beach, Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, according to Fiore.

“We provide funds for their nighttime, weekend and holiday patrols, by enhancing their existing marine patrols for the purposes of marine safety,” he said.

He said the summit’s genesis began with a discussion with Katie Hendrickson, the chair of the Deerfield Beach Marine Advisory Board. Members of the various county marine advisory boards meet monthly at Secret Woods Nature Center, 2701 W. State Road 84, Dania Beach.

The meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, at the Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Park, 751 Sheridan St, Hollywood.

Fiore and his band of marine advisory boards are also in the middle of drafting a new Broward Safe Boating Guide. Board members from Dania Beach, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Hollywood, Lighthouse Point and Pompano Beach are making suggestions and improvements to help boaters navigate Broward County’s waterways.

“Right now we are fine-tuning and tweeting it. It should be ready this spring,” Fiore said, adding the county is giving $21,500 to the Pompano Beach Power Squadron, which will be in charge of printing the guide – in conjunction with Broward County – along with providing fold-out maps and charts.

“It’s not going to be cheap. It’s a major undertaking,” Fiore said. And while he didn’t want to predict how many copies would be available, he did say that perhaps 10,000 copies would be printed.

The marine industry association used to update and publish the guide, but no longer – hence the Marine Advisory Board and Power Squadron’s interest, Fiore said.

The guide will be given to boaters by the power squadrons and the marine police when they observe boaters who are acting reckless or disobeying waterway laws, Fiore said.

The guide includes information such as inland navigation, lights, public boat ramps, heights of movable bridges, rules of the road, communication devices and emergency numbers, flotation devices, anchoring, types of lines and knots, trailering, diving, what to do in severe weather, and plenty more. It’s a regular bible for boaters.

Money for these programs comes from several funds: marine registration fees paid by boaters, and the Enhanced Marine Law Enforcement Grant (EMLEG) for the boating safety guide.