The fact that the industry has won a heady number of access battles over the past 12 months also deserves its share of the credit in any lasting turnaround.
One of the biggest challenges to PWC in the past several years has been this topic of access, most notably involving the national park system. As a result of a settlement between the National Park Service and Bluewater Network, many parks were closed to PWC through much of 2003. In order to once again open their doors to the craft, parks were charged with the job of completing impact assessments, and then coming up with plans that either included or prohibited PWC access.
The good news, of course, is that the parks that have formulated plans have overwhelmingly gone in favor of once again allowing PWC access to their waters.
Most recently Chicksaw National Recreation Area offered a proposal to allow PWC to return to Lake of the Arbuckles, while Gulf Islands National Seashore, long considered one of the parks that could go either way, also recommended allowing the return or personal watercraft. This is in addition to high-profile areas like Lakes Mead and Powell, which also allowed PWC to return to their waters in 2003.
For those that are keeping score, that’s a perfect sweep for continued PWC usage within the park system, a result that not only affects the parks themselves, but one that sends a message to the responsible PWC user that their chosen form of recreation will not be outlawed, but rather accepted as part of the greater boating community.
“We’re down to the last few national parks that haven’t quite made their final decision, and been winning every one that matters in a big way,” sums up Polaris’ Dan Schroepfer. “I think that it’s been long enough in the key places where consumers realize it’s a done deal, and it really is final, the places have opened back up. The retail is a reflection of the growing consumer confidence when it comes to watercraft access issues.”
For the Personal Watercraft Industry Association, the park decisions have been a vindication for the entire industry.
“We’re pleased to see that the National Park Service is acknowledging what the industry has known all along,” said Jeff Ludwig, regulatory affairs manager for the Personal Watercraft Industry Association, following one park’s re-opening. “That is, that personal watercraft have no unique effect on the environment which would require singling them out for bans or overly restrictive regulation.”
The end result is that access is no longer looked at as a losing situation. Battles certainly remain, and the industry must stay vigilant, but the perception that a PWC is a dirty, polluting vehicle that will soon be outlawed is finally being removed from the consumer mindset.
“That, combined with the slow penetration of the realities of what a watercraft is today,” explains Schroepfer. “It never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t realize there are two, three, and four-passenger watercraft, that they can tow skiers, and do all the things they do. More and more people seem to learn that every day, and that all helps, with the cleaner, quieter four-strokes on top of it. “The tide is slowly turning, things are
looking good.” psb
Copyright 2004 Powersports Business