Finding a future for Oxford’s working waterfront
— On Tuesday, Sept. 26, the Oxford town commissioners approved a Working Waterfront Strategic Plan draft, aimed at identifying the assets and challenges associated with the town along the Tred Avon River.
The plan, presented by Jim Klein of Lardner and Klein Associates, focuses on the town’s maritime history, its sustainability and visions for the future.
“What a great public waterfront you all have,” Klein said. “All the business down the street and the ferry dock and town dock, these are all great things. It really is an amazing cluster, and it is a huge asset and an important thing.”
Some of the assets for the town were listed as its maritime heritage, historic district, stormwater and flood plain management, water access and the community.
The challenges for the town were listed as nuisance flooding and rising sea levels, along with the older median age of residents and the seasonality of the area.
Klein said the median age of Oxford residents was almost 63 years old, compared to the county, which is slightly over 50.
The vision or focus of the draft is to attract the next generation to Oxford — new visitors, boaters, businesses and residents.
Klein laid out the recommendations of goals established in the draft that hopefully would aid the town in achieving that vision. A few of those goals included bringing aquaculture to the area, social media marketing, expanding educational tourism, year-round events and working with neighboring towns to create desirable destination points and packages.
He said Oxford is capable of supporting all these things and recommended establishing a brand that will attract people to the town and to spend money there.
Another recommendation was to create boatbuilding or boat mechanic jobs. He suggested the town work with local schools and colleges for internship programs and provide the hands-on training.
Creating or establishing affordable housing for younger residents above commercial floors of buildings or secondary dwellings also was listed.
Klein said the emerging priorities listed in the draft were marketing the boat yard district that would build up the brand of Oxford; cooperative heritage tourism development by working with neighboring communities; rural economic development through workforce training; and communitysupported fisheries, much like farming CSAs (community supported agriculture).
There was a lot of positive discussion about the town’s ability to provide and develop a workforce training program.
“We have the ability to teach these skills,” Oxford Town Clerk Cheryl Lewis said. “We just need the means to do it. The objective of basically keeping our youth and creating a situation where they can be successful.”
Lewis said this idea is supported among the business community, and by attracting the youth to stay in Oxford, it helps to tie a lot of the other issues together. She said it is something she believes the town as a whole would support.
“Well, I’m excited,” Commission President Carole Abruzzese said to Klein. “You have some good things here.”
The board unanimously approved the draft plan. Follow me on Twitter @Dspiering617.
A marina in Oxford is pictured. The town commission recently approved a draft Working Waterfront Strategic Plan for the town.