New maritime center director putting education, accessibility at forefront

New leadership at the Bayfront Maritime Center is leading the way to include as many people as possible in maritime programming and education.

The maritime center’s new director said Lake Erie shouldn’t be a resource that people are barred from accessing and hopes to include all members of the community.

“Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie should be a community resource for all of us. We want to be that access point because right now, there’s not really a way for people to get on the water unless they have the means to be able to buy a boat,” said Chris Cusson, director of the Bayfront Maritime Center.

Programming for the Bayfront Maritime Center is expected to kick into another gear this year under new leadership.

New director Chris Cusson said they’re looking to build on some of their pillar programs of the past as they work towards the future. That future being centered around one of its flagships, the Porcupine, which has been under construction since 2015.

“We’re refocusing our efforts right now for the Porcupine on redeveloping and making sure our programs here are successful. And so as we do a campaign to finish the Porcupine and get it in the water, it’s going to be a centerpiece for all of the programs that we do here,” he said.

The new director said that programming will be focused on several key initiatives rather than one specific program itself.

Those include the long-running ease program, which opens a door for people with disabilities to sailing, a community sailing and boating program, and even an after-school program for high school students where they’ll take on an apprenticeship to build employment experiences and skills through a maritime lens.

The Bayfront Maritime Center operates completely separate from entities like the Flagship Niagara League, which has been in limbo so far this year.

But Cusson said nothing should get in the way of staying in touch with a community resource as good as Lake Erie.

“It’s not about the boats that really matters. That’s not what really is defining of our programs here. It’s really about the people and making sure that they connect with themselves, with their community, develop different skills, that really the boats are the platform to improve the life of a person,” Cusson went on to say.

Cusson said as things ramp up, the maritime center has its doors open to partners throughout the region in the form of volunteers, educators, and other organizations that can provide new opportunities.

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