Transportation, recreation, commercial fishing: no matter how you look at it, water, and access to it, is an integral part of our lives along the Gulf Coast. The livelihood of some, such as oystermen, boat makers and charter fishermen, rely on ready access to the water. However, the market for waterfront residential property is as popular as ever, putting increasing pressure on the land available for open waterfront access.
Other states have experience with this issue. Maine, Florida and North Carolina have all taken measures to ensure access to their waterfronts remains for those who depend on it. In some cases, such as with the City of Gulf Shores, ordinances have been passed to protect or preserve waterfront space.
In coastal Alabama, a group of concerned stakeholders, representing interests in commercial and charter fishing, tourism, boat building, retail business, seafood processing and real estate, have formed the Alabama Working Waterfront Coalition. The goal of the group is to maintain a sustainable working waterfront. With funding from Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant, Auburn University has conducted an inventory of the working waterfront in Mississippi and Alabama. This will serve as a baseline for the waterfront, as well as an educational tool. The results of this study are expected soon.
A growing community is one of balances and compromises. It is up to the members of communities along the Gulf Coast to set its own priorities regarding working waterfronts. Efforts should be made to ensure that all parties and economic interests, recreational, commercial and residential, have the access they need to our waterways.