In a time when the private economy is just getting back on its feet and government is struggling to balance its books, the volunteer-powered Marina Recreation Association stands out for the many accomplishments of its hard-working members. The can-do, self-propelled organization forwards the interests of marina operators, marine trades and the boating public almost entirely through activists and volunteers. The MRA, which is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, is an association of marina operators and trades for the Western United States, Hawaii, Mexico and Western Canada. Among its year-after-year successes are a nationally renowned Clean Marina Program, a successful and effective lobbying presence in Sacramento, and its well-attended Annual Educational Conference and Trade Show.
The Clean Marinas Program (CMP) was established in 2004 as an all-volunteer organization by individuals in the San Diego area marina industry to ward off a proposed National Pollution Discharge Elimination Systems Permit. In 2005, the MRA took over the administration of the CMP in order to have it become a statewide program. The program, which is one of a kind in the nation, has been very successful in educating marina staff as well as marina and yacht club tenants through the use of Best Management Practices to help protect the water environment in which they live and recreate. The now independent non-profit organization, runs the program without state intervention or taxpayer money. The program has proved so effective that its training and qualification procedures have become emulated all over the US and the world. After 7 years, the CMP has recently certified its 102nd yacht club and marina.
A 2010 lobbying effort to turn back a proposed permitting regulation in California is perhaps one of the most important endeavors in the Association's history. The proposed rules would subject marina operators to costly, mandatory testing of bottom soils at their own expense. In the event of an "unsatisfactory" test result, the rule threatens to take some slips out of operation as remediation. MRA membership includes environmental consultants who questioned the need for the test and the meaning of its results. As all the operators immediately understood, this could lead to steep new operating costs, and potentially a critical shortfall in marina revenues. The proposed rule galvanized the members of the MRA, resulting in an "all-hands" effort to provide new environmental and economic data with which to lobby against the rule. The MRA volunteers and lobbyists were successful-while the proposed rule is not yet dead, it has been shelved for the time being.
The 39th annual Conference was among the MRA's strongest in terms of attendance, trade-show participation, and the quality and scope of its educational program. It was held last November at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas. The show was an important chance to learn and improve professional skills. Wendy Bunnett, the Office Manager of Shelter Island Marina, located near Vancouver, BC, was attending her first MRA Conference. "The Conference provided me with essential networking and learning opportunities which will be beneficial to our organization for years to come," said Bunnett. "The seminar materials were easily adaptable to our needs in Canada. I'm looking forward to new and exciting topics at the next Conference."
This year's event will return to the Rio All Suite Hotel in Las Vegas from Nov 1-3, 2011, and will include a pre-conference golf tournament on Tuesday, November 1. New for the conference will be a Clean Marinas Program workshop with a step-by-step "How to Become a Certified Clean Marina" seminar to include a field trip to a local marina. Other planned seminar tracks are designed to appeal specifically to marina owners, managers, office or dock personnel, as well as boatyards.