Spring '05

A letter from the President

By David G. Barber

Cruising rings are a big topic on British canals. The interconnection of waterways allow a boater to depart from a marina or hire base, cruise for an extended period and return from the opposite direction without backtracking.

In North America, we also have rings, but we don't talk about them that way. The biggest ring is the eastern United States for which there is a web site. For those with lots of time, the route includes the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, the Hudson River, the Erie Canal, Lakes Erie and Michigan, the Illinois Waterway, the Mississippi River, usually the Tennessee River, the Tenn-Tom Waterway, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and Lake Okeechobee.

You can also circumnavigate the Adirondack Mountains of New York, New England, two rings in eastern Ontario, south Florida, Mississippi & eastern Louisiana, and western Louisiana.

It gets more interesting to think about what could be with a few restorations. If the lower and upper Fox River and Portage Canal in Wisconsin were restored, there'd be a ring around southern Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois. Restoration of the Hennepin Canal would create a ring in western Illinois. Reconnecting the part of the Ohio and Erie Canal from Cleveland to Dresden, Ohio would create a mid-west ring. These individual rings can be combined to create larger rings. What would cruising of these rings do for the economy of the towns along the way?

We need to think more about the economic benefit of canals and navigations. A recent article in BoatUS Magazine talking about the difficulty of justifying dredging of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway said " Recreational vessel traffic and boater spending is not counted......Neither is the commercial fishing, tour boat operation, ferry traffic, charter fishing or cruise ship activity...." In other words, one of the nation's largest industries, tourism, is ignored in considering the justification for waterways. I believe the same is true for inland waterways.

That strikes me as like trying to justify interstate highways while considering only trucks and ignoring passenger cars and buses. The road lobby is smarter than that. Why isn't the waterway industry?

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