COVID-19 Safety Messages Shared With Marinas Near and Far

By Lake Champlain Sea Grant Staff
September 15, 2020

This summer, marinas in the Lake Champlain basin faced unprecedented challenges with numerous COVID-19 capacity and safety restrictions on-site, the Canadian border closure, and an August opening on the locks at Whitehall, New York. Collectively, these challenges kept many customers away from their boats for the entire boating season. Like other tourism-based businesses, marinas made the best of the situation, welcoming those customers who were able to access their boats with both open arms and strict guidelines intended to keep everyone safe.

In an effort to help marinas keep both their staff and customers safe, the Vermont Boat and Marine Association, Lake Champlain Sea Grant and University of Vermont Extension, and the San Francisco Estuary Partnership teamed up to help marinas share COVID-19 safety information. Initially, a succinct list of critical COVID-19 safety guidelines were developed and printed on waterproof signs, as well as on brochures and rack cards. These were distributed to marinas on Lake Champlain, Lake Bomoseen, and Lake George.

Concurrently, the Pumpout Nav App was updated to allow for marina websites to be linked within the app. Depending on user preference, this smartphone application displays a map or a list of nearby marinas with sewage pumpout facilities, along with their costs, locations at the marina, and open times. Adding links to marina websites enhanced the ability of recreational boaters to learn more about space availability at marinas, many of which faced COVID-19-related capacity restrictions. Boaters could also go to marina websites to see COVID-19 safety guidelines specific to marinas that chose to post this information on their websites. Since this functionality of the app will remain, boaters will continue to have easy access to marina details and reservation systems over time.

“All of the marinas on Lake Champlain are unique regarding their location and marketing strategies. As such, the effect due to COVID-19 has impacted the industry in different ways,” said Mike O’Brien, Executive Director of the Vermont Boat and Marine Association.

After signs were distributed to all interested marinas in the Lake Champlain basin, Lake Champlain Sea Grant reached out across the 34-progam National Sea Grant Network to identify marinas in other areas that had interest in displaying the safety signs for their customers. By the end of the summer, signs had been distributed to marinas in Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, and Washington.

“It was great to be able to share the signs with marinas along the Pacific, Great Lakes, Gulf, and Atlantic coasts, as we want as many people as possible to stay safe during the pandemic,” said Kris Stepenuck, Extension Program Leader for Lake Champlain Sea Grant.

As an unexpected additional positive outcome of sharing the signs, two states are considering adding their marinas to the Pumpout Nav App. The app, originally designed for California-based marinas, is managed by the San Francisco Bay Estuary Partnership. The Partnership worked with Lake Champlain Sea Grant to add marinas in the Lake Champlain basin to the app a few years ago, and the state of Washington adopted the app this summer.

“Seeing interest from other states in its use is fantastic, as it has potential to keep more waters clean and more people safe,” said Stepenuck.