Find­ing a fu­ture for Ox­ford’s work­ing wa­ter­front

Sunday Star - - LOCAL - By DENAE SPIERING dspier­ing@ches­pub.com

— 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.

PHOTO BY DENAE SPIERING

A ma­rina in Ox­ford is pic­tured. The town com­mis­sion re­cently ap­proved a draft Work­ing Wa­ter­front Strate­gic Plan for the town.

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