- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

OTTAWA, Ill. (AP) - Thousands of boaters are still active on Illinois waters, but their numbers have declined significantly over the past several years due to the struggling economy.

The number of mechanically-powered boats registered in Illinois has gone down by about 30 percent since 2009, according to data from the state Department of Natural Resources. There were about 277,620 registered mechanically-powered boats in 2009, compared with about 198,150 in 2015.

Boating reached its peak before the recession, but when it hit, people were less willing to spend money on recreation, boat shop owners told the (LaSalle) News Tribune (https://bit.ly/28NyqVk ).

“Around 2007 and 2008 boating registration was at a high, but it got hurt. Now it’s starting to come back a little,” said Joe Troha, owner of Illinois Valley Outdoors in Spring Valley.

Jeff Hiemsoth of Quest Watersports in Ottawa agreed that the boating industry is starting to see some growth, but it’s been slow and not even close to what it once was.

“It really is kind of defined by the recession,” Hiemsoth said. “In our area it definitely has not come back to pre-recession levels.”

Jeremy Fowler, manager of the marina at Heritage Harbor in Ottawa, said he has noticed more rental boats on the Illinois River.

“For a lot of the Millennials, they’re more about the experience than owning the boat,” he said.

Although the numbers are still down, some boaters believe there’s a returning interest now that the economy is more stable.

“People are just refocusing on what they’re doing with their recreational dollars, but we’re seeing slow growth,” Fowler said.

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Information from: News-Tribune, https://www.newstrib.com

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