How refreshing to hear that Newport Beach Mayor Rush Hill actually addressed a couple of harbor-related issues in his speech during the 33rd annual Mayor's Dinner.
I have known Hill for many years, and I have personally seen his interest in harbor improvements during my tenure as the marine division chair for the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Two items that constantly entered the discussion are the need for water taxis and the collective thinking outside the box on how to redesign the moorings with amenities such as electrical power and water service offshore — exactly what he mentioned as among his goals as mayor and what the city needs to develop in the harbor.
Neitheridea is new, but finally Newport has a mayor who seems to be moving them to the forefront of government planning. I am embarrassed when friends visit Newport by boat and ask where they can catch a water taxi so they can grab a bite to eat. They could use a water taxi to get from their anchored boat to shore, especially with limited guest docking throughout the harbor.
The city's publication "Complete Cruising Guide to Newport Harbor" does not mention a local water taxi service yet gives the contact information for Yellow Cab and Best Limousines & Transportation for when a boater is on shore. The planning needs to include getting boaters ashore. Also, the city has changed the time limits on some of the public docks for dinghies.
But many visiting boaters may not have a dinghy or want to launch their tenders, as one can observe by the large demand of shore boats in Avalon on Santa Catalina Island. The dinghy can be wet from the ocean voyage or nighttime moisture in the air. So one can be all dressed for dinner, but a dry, clean water taxi ride is the best option to get ashore, especially if one does not want to drink and skipper a boat.
I find it noteworthy that city and community planners spend a tremendous amount of time and effort on automobile parking. Yet where is the concern for the thousands of boaters in our harbor?
Realistically, the waterways should be included in the regional traffic plans because they can provide another means of regular transportation around the harbor. We have the auto ferries between the peninsula and Balboa Island and the Catalina Flyer to and from Santa Catalina Island, but where are the harbor taxis serving the harbor locations?
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Lastly, the idea of replacing some mooring cans with docks that are not connected to the shore has been floating around for a while. This is a great way to bring in new, innovative approaches to test what's feasible for the harbor. However, I hope this idea does not become bogged down in subcommittee after subcommittee.
Mr. Mayor, have the Harbor Commission help city staff members prepare a request for proposal or qualifications for submitting sample design plans. This is an idea that can get underway now. And it would be a good use of the harbor taxes.
Tip of the week is for the public to weigh in on the need for a water taxi service. Keep in mind that a water taxi can operate on a limited, peak-time schedule. Additionally, boaters can contact the Harbor Commission to see any conceptual designs for a mooring dock in lieu of a mooring can. Maybe you have an outstanding idea for an innovative docking structure.
Please be boat smart and boat safe. Lastly, please boat responsibly and look behind you before you turn the wheel at the helm.