Feature Article - March 2009
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Drawn to the Water

How Aquatic Settings Can Become a Community Gathering Place

By Jessica Royer Ocken

Waterfront Impact

Sure, this all sounds good. But what kinds of benefits are we really talking about?

"We're considered the most visited aspect of the Santa Barbara experience," said John N. Bridley, harbormaster and waterfront director. "People visit the wharf or harbor or at least drive along Cabrio Boulevard to see the view. Other than the Santa Barbara mission, we're the No. 1 attraction. We're on all the magazine covers."

"The Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce estimates that 2.5 million tourists a year come to the island, spending an average of $119 per day per person over the average 3.5 days per visit," reported Gary Mysorski, director of parks and recreation. "That's an estimated economic impact of $1.04 billion per year. This area has seen a steady increase in hotel/motel tax revenue for the past seven years, and the marina/waterfront area of Roberts Point Park is one of the premier amenities in Port Aransas."

"[The Riverwalk] was never intended to be an economic development tool, but it was the mother of all," said Richard G. Hitchcock, chairman of the Naperville Riverwalk Commission. "Before and after comparisons are quite striking—rents increased, there was redevelopment downtown. It's the unequivocal centerpiece of Naperville. …Everyone recognizes it as the place to be. From the tourist angle, honestly, in our wildest dreams no one imagined the pull this would have, that tour buses would come in and drop off people who wander around, then eat lunch downtown. It was designed to satisfy the needs of the community first, but we don't mind the sales tax dollars invested in downtown."