Following the Crowd: Waterfront Living Comes with a Price

NOAA Working to Encourage Smart Coastal Growth

Kris Wall in Portland, Ore.

Kris Wall in Portland, Ore.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Americans love to live and vacation on the water. More than half of Americans live along U.S. coasts (including the Great lakes), and about 180 million people visit coastal areas every year.

For many people, waterfront towns and cities hold a special sense of place. It might be their rich maritime history, beautiful locale, or close connection to nature — the hypnotic roar of the waves or the feel of soft breezes blowing off the water.

But being popular comes with a price tag: as more people move to and visit the coast, development of commercial space, residences, and roads is sure to follow. Uncontrolled coastal development can damage ecosystems, threaten economies, and restrict public access to water and beaches.

Overdeveloped or poorly designed coastal areas that suffer damage from hurricanes and severe storms can also cost local, state and federal governments millions in disaster relief funding.

Dowtown Annapolis, Md.

Dowtown Annapolis, Md.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Grow Smarter, Not Larger

NOAA helps coastal communities plan development that protects both their sense of place and economic prosperity.

NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management and Coastal Services Center teamed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the International City/County Management Association, and Rhode Island Sea Grant to create a first-of-its-kind guide to smart growth principles specifically designed to help coastal and waterfront communities plan ecologically and socially conscious development.

The guide, on NOAA’s new Web site “Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities,” incorporates the special character of waterfront areas into 10 smart growth principles developed by the Smart Growth Network in 1996

For example, the original smart growth principle “Create walkable communities” was adapted to “Create walkable communities with physical and visual access to and along the waterfront for public use.” 

Kris Wall in Portland, Ore.

Kris Wall in Portland, Ore.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Another Way of Doing Business

Some historic and popular seaside towns are great examples of smart growth planning. 

As coastal populations continue to grow, planning tools and guidance like the smart growth principles will be even more important to help waterfront communities make decisions about how development will affect their environment, economy, and quality of life for decades to come.

See “Smart Growth for Coastal and Waterfront Communities,” which includes links to tools and training on coastal development.

More on NOAA public involvement activities in coastal planning.