Massachusetts is blessed with over 1200 miles of seashore and hundreds of lakes, ponds, and streams which make the Commonwealth an exceptional destination for all types of boating and fishing. The Office of Fishing and Boating Access (OFBA) is charged with providing access to these many waterways.
Presently, the agency oversees boat and canoe launch sites, as well as fishing piers and shore fishing areas, at over 300 coastal and inland locations in Massachusetts, giving residents and visitors extensive opportunities to enjoy fishing, canoeing, sailing, water skiing, and recreational boating statewide.
OFBA is one of four agencies within the Department of Fish and Game. In addition to the construction of access sites, OFBA also provides engineering, construction, and technical services to the other agencies in the department—the Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, the Division of Marine Fisheries, and the Division of Ecological Restoration.
Facilities and Operations
OFBA manages the construction, repair, and operation of state boat ramps, canoe and car-top launch sites, parking areas, and approach roads. OFBA oversees facility design and construction, which is usually done by private contractors or municipal public works departments. OFBA funds are also used to construct fish piers and purchase shoreline fishing areas. Ultimately, OFBA is working to locate boat launch facilities at close enough intervals throughout the state so that none of them will be overused.
Facility Management and Fees
Unlike most state agencies providing recreational facilities, OFBA has no regional staff to assume direct daily management of sites. Therefore, cleanup and general maintenance of sites is performed by personnel from state agencies such as the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Highway Department, as well as by city and town workers.
Most state boat ramps are open free of charge to the general public. However, some heavily used sites are authorized by the Department to collect user fees in order to recover the costs of site maintenance and daily management. All sites which collect such fees must charge the same amount to all state residents, and the facilities must be open to the boating public on equal terms. Unlike FBA sites, boating facilities acquired and constructed entirely with municipal funds may charge higher fees to out-of-town users or restrict usage to town residents.
Appropriations for the acquisition, construction, and maintenance activities of OFBA come from several sources. OFBA receives state bond appropriations, and federal reimbursements are provided for some projects by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the federal Sport Fish Restoration Act.
Selecting New Sites
OFBA staff review requests for boat launching facilities and conduct site investigations to determine the feasibility of developing new access sites. The minimum criteria that must be met for OFBA to consider a proposed facility are as follows:
- the proposed project must be on a publicly owned water body
- there must be a demonstrated recreational need for the project
- the project must be consistent with the mission of the Department of Fish and Game
- personnel must be available to assist with general upkeep of the facility
The topography must be appropriate for development of a boat or canoe launching facility. If no development is contemplated, the land must be suitable for foot passage to the shoreline
Your suggestions and comments as to selection of sites, or any other phase of the Board's activity, are welcomed. Correspondence should be addressed to:
Office of Fishing and Boating Access
1 Rabbit Hill Rd.
Westborough, MA 01581