River of opportunities

Published 1:47 am Thursday, September 20, 2007

By Staff
Washington has numerous activities and events that take place on its downtown waterfront, but some people believe there are not enough things happening on the Pamlico River between the railroad trestle and the U.S. Highway 17 bridge.
They’re right.
There is the Holiday Flotilla, the parade of decorated boats in early December. There are the River Roving excursions provided by the North Carolina Estuarium. There are plenty of boats on that section of the river when fireworks light up the night sky on the Fourth of July and during the Summer Festival.
Within the past 30 days, there have been two poker runs on the river, one for the dinghy crowd and one for the personal-watercraft crowd. More such events would be welcome and should be supported by the community.
There’s a movement afoot to bring sailing races — small vessels, for the most part — and sailing classes for youngsters to the waters off Washington’s waterfront. Downtown Washington on the Waterfront officials and members are exploring those possibilities.
Bob Trescott, Downtown Washington on the Waterfront’s executive director, points out many previous plans, events and activities focused on downtown and its adjacent waterfront, to a point. “Who was focused on downtown south of the sea wall, the river?” asked Trescott during a recent conversation.
Having a sailing race, say, every Thursday evening when the weather is conducive to sailing, would draw plenty of people to the waterfront and downtown. Those sailing in the races likely would be accompanied by family members and friends. Other people would show up just to watch several sailboats compete off the city’s waterfront. Some of those observers likely would visit downtown shops and businesses.
As for starting a sailing school for beginners, such a school would be educational and recreational at the same time. Sailors tend to be good stewards of the environment, especially when it comes to protecting waterways. Teaching young people to sail should also result in them becoming those good stewards.
And as those sailors get older, gain experience and begin earning livings, they likely will buy sailboats and sailing equipment. That would put money in the pockets of area boat dealers and suppliers of boating equipment. That would be good for the area’s economy.
Downtown Washington on the Waterfront would help facilitate such activities, not provide the funding for them, Trescott explained. As part of the effort to help bring such activities to the river, Downtown Washington on the Waterfront representatives are looking into the possibility of obtaining six small, used sailboats from Georgetown University, which runs a sailing program.
Along with many of the proposed activities and events on the river being educational and recreational, they also would enhance tourism-development and economic-development efforts in the city and surrounding area. Those efforts don’t have to stop at the Stewart Parkway bulkhead, boardwalk and promenade. They also can happen on the river.
The river has been, is, and will continue to be a shining asset of the city. There’s nothing wrong with using the river to improve the quality of life in the area. Just remember to protect its quality of life.
A vibrant, busy river where recreational, educational, tourism-development and, yes, economic-development activities occur makes sense. It’s time to pull anchor and explore those possibilities.