BEND, Ore. -

Boaters are invited to join the Oregon State Marine Board agency staff and non-motorized advisory committee members next Thursday in Bend for an evening of dialog about your boating interests and what you need in your area to better support your activities out on the water.

The Listening Session will focus primarily on discussions about boating access, on-the-water safety, education and information opportunities, and funding options to support these services.

"Now is the time that we need to bring paddlers to the table and talk about the services they need and want," says Director Scott Brewen. "We hope that together we will set a new course forward that will help us manage, support and encourage diverse non-motorized activities on Oregon's waterways that promote safer and more frequent boating recreation for all boaters."

The meeting begins at 6 pm on Thursday, June 19th, at the Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe Shop, 805 SW Industrial Way, Suite #6, in Bend.

"This process was initiated by boaters through their input to our Strategic Plan in 2011," said Brewen. "The common issue from motorized and non-motorized boaters alike was how to integrate non-motorized boaters' needs and participation into agency operations."

As a first step in 2012, the Marine Board convened a Non-Motorized Advisory Committee comprised of individuals representing non-motorized user groups.

The committee produced a set of key topics about what is important to non-motorized boaters and potential ways the Marine Board could engage and support them into the future.

Based on their recommendations, the Marine Board is holding this series of interactive "public listening sessions" to further engage the casual user and more organized non-motorized boaters with agency staff.

The listening sessions will serve two purposes: 1) Inform the boating public about the Marine Board's new Mission and strategic goals, and; 2) Listen closely to non-motorized boaters to learn about their local needs related to access, safety, and education; and explore funding options to meet those needs.

The input received from the Non-Motorized Advisory Committee, the public listening sessions in June, and comments from an online survey will serve as a baseline for preliminary thinking and development of ideas for a non-motorized boater program.

The public dialogue will continue in the fall, beginning in September, with another series of listening sessions around the state. Additionally, the online survey and other outreach will be ongoing.

A comprehensive report will be compiled with recommendations for a non-motorized boater program and funding source options to present to the Marine Board in July of 2015. The process will be documented and posted to the Marine Board's website.

The Marine Board is funded by registration fees and marine fuel taxes paid by boaters. No general fund tax dollars are used to support the agency or its programs. Boater-paid fees go back to boaters in the form of boating access facilities, law enforcement services that protect boater safety, and education and outreach materials.

"This is a ground-truthing mission, and it's important to connect with people who recreate on Oregon's waterways. Understanding what we do and how we deliver services is only one part of the conversation," Brewen added. "But how do boaters want us to serve them? We want to find balance, equitability, and a way to meet all boaters' needs. We want boaters to tell us how to achieve it."

To learn more about the Marine Board's strategic plan and the activities being implemented by various external advisory committees, visit http://www.oregon.gov/OSMB/pages/admin/strategicplan.aspx.