| INTERVIEW with Gary L. Comer, Jr., Coordinator-Ohio Clean Marinas Program, The Ohio State University Extension, Sea Grant College Program
What do you do to protect and improve Ohio’s coastal region?
I encourage marina owners to take part in the Ohio Clean Marinas Program and I assist them in meeting program requirements. Marinas and boaters use a lot of potentially hazardous materials including paint, oil, gasoline and lead acid batteries. They also generate a lot of trash and organic materials such as plastic and glass bottles, paper products, fish waste and human sewage. For this reason, the Clean Ohio Marinas Program was created to encourage marinas and boaters to use simple, innovative solutions to keep Ohio's coastal and inland waterway resources clean.
How does a marina become involved in the Ohio Clean Marinas Program?
The steps to becoming an Ohio Clean Marina are outlined in our brochure. In general, a marina owner pledges to follow certain procedures to become a certified marina within a year. Actions marina owners can take to become certified are provided on the Ohio Clean Marinas Program Checklist.
How do you assist marina owners to meet program requirements?
I assist marina operators by providing resources, support and connecting pledged marinas with certified marinas who serve as mentors. I also work with coastal partners and perform on-site reviews of pledged marinas checklists for final certification. In addition, I conduct educational workshops to inform marinas and boaters about environmental laws, rules and jurisdictions and to introduce them to best management practices.
Why should a marina become an Ohio Clean Marina?
The self-regulation program assists marina operators in protecting the resources that provide their livelihood - clean water and fresh air. Meeting the standards of the program can improve the environment and increase the marina’s profitability. For example, by participating in the Ohio Clean Marinas shrink-wrap recycling program, a marina can reduce costs of waste disposal, potentially generate new sources of revenue and keep tons of plastic out of landfills. The Clean Marina designation may also enable a marina to attract and maintain responsible customers that will respect property, follow best boating practices and pledge to take part in the Ohio Clean Boater Program. This program accepts individual boaters’ pledges to strive for environmental stewardship in the areas of boat painting and cleaning, fuel and engine maintenance and waste disposal.
What is most challenging about your job?
The biggest challenge I face is learning to understand the current and ever changing regulations for marinas in Ohio. The regulations are multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional and juggling them can be difficult. As a one-person staff, the geographical challenge of overseeing a program that operates from Conneaut to Toledo makes for a great deal of time on the road.