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II. Needs AssessmentHow to Take a Long Hard Look at Your Community To decide whether a boating operation will be a viable addition to your community, first determine your market, the availability of a site, and the approvals and restrictions required by various agencies.
The MarketStudies show up to 50 percent of Americans are attracted to sailing. Investigate whether sailing programs already exist to serve your community. If they do exist, are they open to all, or only to a limited group? Are they fulfilling all the boating needs of the public, and are they doing it properly and safely? Are the users satisfied? Do their facilities, equipment and personnel meet your minimum standards and those of the national authorities (USCG and US SAILING)'? Are their fees affordable to the general public, including low and modest income groups?
Many programs provide limited services for a particular clientele. One program may only have rental operations; another may offer private or group sailing lessons in one type of craft while still others may just offer stowage for privately owned boats. Sailing clubs and commercial operations will usually attract higher income families, or may have limitations on who may participate.
Frequently, a new program is viewed as a potential competitor, but with some imagination and coordination it can successfully complement existing programs. To start, you need to conduct a survey of your community to measure the interest in a public sailing facility, and the market potential for it. Your survey should determine: What interest or needs does the community have? Is there a demand for waterfront activities'? Is there a latent demand for recreational sailing? Is the community aware of the benefits of sailing? What interest is there in boating lessons'? What kind of instruction would they like to see: Entry-level skills, intermediate sailing, racing, navigation, windsurfing, canoeing, rowing, kayaking, small powerboat operation, water skiing -- and what about fishing? What type(s) of craft are most attractive to potential users: small centerboard sailing dinghies, windsurfers, catamarans, keelboats? Is there a demand for boat and sailboard rentals to satisfy people who don't own boats? Is there a need for land storage or in-water moorings and slips for boat owners? Is there interest in special events, i.e., regattas, water parades, free style windsurfing or funboard events, rowing competitions. Olympic training, lectures by sailing celebrities, hosting "tall ships?" Is there a need for job training in waterrelated activities, i.e. boat and engine repair, instructors, managers? When would the facility be used? Would it be used seasonally or year round? How would usage be distributed among daytime, after school or work hours, evenings, weekends and holidays'? Who are the potential users and how many are there? What are their age categories: children, adults, senior citizens'? Are they physically fit'? Do they have learning or physical disabilities'? Are they associated with educational institutions, youth groups, charitable institutions, civic organizations, or local businesses'? What institutions or organizations will support the program'? In what ways will they participate? Will they provide students, funding, equipment, services'? Will they provide access to existing facilities?
If an area has some sailing activity before the establishment of a community program, activity will increase 50 percent in the first three years of operation with a doubling of the market in five years before leveling off. A cooperative and reliable boat dealer with a long-term business perspective will augment these projections by 25 percent. In areas with no previous sailing activity, projections are difficult because the effectiveness of marketing and public relations efforts will determine public interest.
Clearly, new programs have to place visibility high on their priority list in establishing a position in the community. Groups and organizations you should contact during your assessment of needs and market potential: Government Agencies -- Parks and recreation districts, planning commission, juvenile rehabilitation authorities, Corps of Engineers (if on navigable waters) or state waterway board, zoning commissions and military facilities. Educational Institutions -- Public and private school principals, junior college and college officials (president, recreational/physical education directors, student activity managers), adult education program directors. Youth Groups -- YMCA/YWCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Sea Cadets, church leaders (youth group activity directors), Boys Clubs, Girls Clubs, Big Brothers/Big Sisters organizations. Businesses -- Chamber of Commerce, major corporations, (employee recreation programs, community service projects), communications media managers, marine equipment and boat dealers, commercial sailboat operators, waterfront hotels and resorts, health and recreation clubs. Charitable Institutions -- Local American Red Cross chapters, local United Way/Community Service organizations, fraternal organizations (Elk, VFW, American Legion, Moose, Knights of Columbus, Masonic organizations), Salvation Army, special organizations for assisting the disabled. Civic Organizations – JayCees. Junior League, neighborhood association, business service clubs (Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary). Existing Water-Activities Organizations -- yacht racing associations, yacht and sailing clubs, marinas, Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron (Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron offer only classroom courses, there is no on-thewater instruction), American Red Cross, maritime museums, boat builders, boat dealers and sailmakers.
There are few organizations within your community that won't provide grist for your mill or sailors for your program. The fields are fertile and there for the farming.
With imagination and coordination, a new program can successfully complement existing programs
SitesThe most important ingredient needed is water. However, the type of site will affect the method of operation, activities, and the types of craft used in the program. If the program is located on a lake or lagoon with three feet of water and sandy beaches, keel-boats will be out of the question: but catamarans, windsurfers, or light-weight centerboard dinghies that can be sailed off the beach will be the answer. If the program is located on a harbor or a major coastline with a rocky beach or a rapid drop of water depth to seven feet or more, then docks and floats will likely be used and your selection of boats is wide open. Another factor is the quality of the water: if it is polluted, you should think twice about using windsurfers and dinghies that can put the sailor in the drink.
Other factors to consider when assessing potential sites:• Public transportation, parking space, ease of public access.• Availability of adequate space and facilities for storage, maintenance, and instruction.• Adequacy of rest rooms, showers, changing and locker rooms.• Availability of utilities, i.e., electricity and water.• Beach quality, bottom characteristics, depth gradient of adjacent water.• Condition and accessibility of piers and ramps.• Availability of, or space for, in-water moorings.• Availability of a beach or pool for swimming activities or instruction in other water activities.• Temperature, tidal currents and nature of the body of water.• Protection of sailing instruction and launching/docking areas from high wind and waves (especially orientation of facility with respect to prevailing winds and winds producing damaging seas during storms).• Clear view of sailing area from control center or office.• Security of area and facilities, ease of protecting boats and equipment.Some of these factors fall into the "nice to have" category and are not essential for a successful operation. The ideal situation is to have a suitable body of water and the means to build facilities that meet your specifications.
Recently, a number of waterfront redevelopment projects have appeared in several cities that include provisions for recreational water activities. Working with the developers and the city government can result in a modern boating center for the community, and even provide continuing subsidization of the program. However, most often the challenge is to adapt and make do with what is on hand, rather than selecting one of a number of alternatives.
Without doubt "flexibility" is the credo of Community Sailing!Green (and Red) Lights Green lights are approvals or required to operate a community recreational program. Determine the need for licenses required under state and municipal law, and consuit with zoning authorities to ensure that planned use of the site is consistent with zoning. If it is not, determine if it is possible to obtain an exception or change of zoning. Consult with the Corps of Engineers and/or state waterways board to ensure that planned use of the waters is legal and permits are available for necessary construction or modifications.
Avoid "red lights" by identifying any groups that may have conflicts with (and hence create opposition to) your plans for a sailing program. Devise compromise solutions to co-opt opposition before it develops: try to make allies out of potential opponents. Examples: Support local sailing clubs by providing entrants to their racing programs rather than establishing a competing racing program: agree to recognize training/qualification given by other organizations and credit that toward qualification for using your boats and facilities; establish operating hours and areas that minimize interference with other activities. Make sure there are no water access problems for the site that you have selected. Some beach operations that have swimming areas prohibit wind-surfing. If it's difficult to find waterfront property that allows public access, a waterfront redevelopment project may be a solution. Early on, establish eligibility for insurance coverage (liability as well as property damage for shore facilities and boats) and get a commitment from an underwriter to provide the desired coverage.
Sailing has one of the best safety records for a recreational activity, but even so some insurers react cautiously. (See Section 5 - Mechanics for tips on improving your insurability.) If yours is a municipal program and is insured through the city, this issue may be moot, but be aware of the insurance coverage guidelines because, unfortunately, accidents do happen.