Standing Watch

Walking the Docks: Educating Boaters for Clean Marinas

California’s Dockwalker Program is seeking new volunteers to serve as ambassadors for cleaner waterways.

STATEWIDE — You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone arduously opposed to clean water. Any debate on environmental stewardship often comes down to execution. What role should the state play in advancing environmental policies? Are boaters capable of pursuing such initiatives on their own? What is the private sector’s role in addressing issues such as boat sewage or marine debris? Can the state’s Dockwalker Program help provide some answers here?

California’s Division of Boating and Waterways, or DBW, recently announced it is searching for volunteers to join its Dockwalker Program. DBW launched the initiative in 2000 to help raise awareness of best boating practices, particularly as it relates to fuel, marine debris, oil, sewage and trash.

Volunteers – or “Dockwalkers” – walk the docks to distribute boater kits. These kits are handed out or shared at boat launch ramps, boating events or marinas. Each kit delves into various behavioral changes boaters can make to help keep local waters as clean as possible.

State officials hope marinas and yacht clubs will become active participants of the Dockwalker Program, which is jointly spearheaded by DBW and the California Coastal Commission. DBW recently announced it is currently hosting a series of training sessions across the state to educate volunteers on how to be ambassadors of clean waterways.

More than 1,000 volunteers have signed up to be a dockwalker in the past 18 years, with as many as 150 people actively involved with the program, according to state officials. Those participating in the Dockwalker Program are also providing assistance to organizations partnering with the state on safety and water quality initiatives, such as Bay Foundation, Lake Berryessa Partnership, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadrons.

A release recently published by state officials claimed California boaters must do more than navigate local and regional waterways with safety – they must also engage in best boating practices.

“California has about 2.6 million recreational boats and more than 4 million recreational boaters. It is important for recreational boaters to not only boat safely, but to also implement sound boating practices. Safety and protecting the environment go hand in hand,” DBW staff stated in a release promoting the Dockwalker Program.

Marinas and yacht clubs participating in the Dockwalker Program would, according to state officials, “receive educational materials and tools to operate a clean boating facility and minimize water quality impacts.”

“This program provides marinas with points towards the Clean Marina Designation and participation in the Dockwalker Program counts towards the nomination of the Club of the Year under the community service category. In addition, yacht clubs and marinas are essential in spreading awareness directly to boaters,” state officials said in a released statement.

The California Clean Marinas Toolkit, a guidebook publication issued to local boating venues and organizations by DBW, outlines a flexible path for marina operators and yacht club leaders to pursue to maximize environmental benefits.

The guidebook, published in 2004, does not offer any one-size-fits-all approach to maintaining clean marinas. It does, however, make recommendations for marina management, maintenance and operation.

Recommended strategies include the creation of a clean marina plan or preparing for emergency response. Boat operations, boat sewage, fish waste, gray water, hazardous waste, marine debris, oil and fuel, stormwater runoff, trash and vessel cleaning are among the suggested topics marina operators should address in their plans, according to the DBW toolkit.

“Not all suggestions made in the guidebook are either necessary or economically feasible at all marinas in California. Factors such as the marina’s size, location, other physical aspects, and local regulations may help to define what is reasonable and appropriate for a specific facility,” the DBW toolkit and guidebook stated. “The fact that a marina does not implement a practice suggested in the guidebook does not mean that the marina is environmentally unsound.”

Developing clean marina standards, however, could ultimately be good for business, according to guidebook/toolkit.

“Operating a clean marina is not only good for the environment and for boating, it is also good for business,” stated the guidebook/toolkit. “Whether you manage a publicly operated coastal marina with thousands of slips, or a small privately operated inland marina with little in-water boat storage, improvements that make a marina more environmentally friendly can attract more customers. A clean marina can also save money by reducing costs associated with spill response or waste-disposal, and reduce potential liability associated with environmental incidents.”

Dockwalkers, ultimately, are ambassadors for clean and safe boating. It would be interesting to determine the exact correlation between the state’s clean marinas initiatives through the Dockwalker Program and tangible improvements to water quality – both locally and statewide.

Yet raising boater awareness through dockwalkers is definitely a positive step in the right direction.

More information on the Dockwalker Program is available online at



There are several training workshops on tap in the next few weeks, where you can find out more about the Dockwalker Program and whether it would benefit your local marina.

Training sessions will be held, between Feb. 24 and May 12, in 12 cities statewide – including five in Southern California: Oxnard (March 30); Marina Del Rey (March 31); San Diego (April 14); Newport Beach (April 28); and, San Pedro (May 12).

The seven Northern California training sessions are at Antioch (Feb. 24), San Rafael (March 3), Vallejo (March 17), Redwood City (March 25), Oakland (April 5) and Sacramento (May 5).

The following contacts can also provide more information about the program and clean marina initiatives in general.


Vivian Matuk

California Coastal Commission

Environmental Boating Program Coordinator



Mary Kuhn

Clean Marinas




Marine Recreation Association

Mark Sanders, President



Mark Sandoval, Vice President



RJ Lorenzi, Trade Director



William Krauss, Legislative Advocate



Recreational Boaters of California


John Marshall, President


California State Parks


Gloria Sandoval, Deputy Director of Public Affairs



Lynn Sadler, Deputy Director


Department of Parks and Recreation


Lisa Mangat, Director


Share This:


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Standing Watch/Take Action

In this section you will find resources and supplemental information on what you can do to Take Action. Submit additional information or tips on this issue to