Waterways to Connect Communities
A program to develop rivers and lakes will promote local stewardship and tourism.
A new National Water Trails System aims to increase community access to water-based outdoor recreation. At the same time, the restoration of local waterways will promote tourism and economic development through encouraging an ethic of stewardship, according to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Like what the national trail systems have done for hikers, bikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts, national water trails would provide more recreational opportunities for water lovers such as kayakers, rafters, and anglers.
“Rivers, lakes, and other waterways are the lifeblood of our communities, connecting us to our environment, our culture, our economy, and our way of life,” Salazar said in announcing the first national water trail, Georgia’s Chattahoochee River. The river provides most of Atlanta’s drinking water, and the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area provides more than 65% of the Atlanta metro area’s public greenspace.
Designating waterways as part of the National Water Trail could be hindered by the costs associated with developing recreational facilities, notes Dan Foster, the National Park Service superintendent in charge of the Niobrara National Scenic River in Nebraska. He told the Lincoln Journal Star that a national water trail designation could benefit the local economy but also tax it “if people are not ready to take care of visitations.”
Land ownership issues in the areas designated as part of the water trail also concern Foster. The required public access points will mean negotiating contracts of at least 10 years with landowners. He points out that landowners themselves could simply create their own access to the river and charge fees to the public.
The National Water Trails System joins other initiatives of the National Trails System act of 1968, which includes the National Recreation Trails, National Scenic Trails, and National Historic Trails.
Waterways that are designated will be provided signage, technical assistance, and resources required to develop the trails, according to the Interior Department, and the Army Corps for Civil Works will team with local partners in development projects.—Cynthia G. Wagner
“Scenic Niobrara River Could Be Candidate for National Water Trails System” by Algis J. Laukaitis, Lincoln Journal Star (April 7, 2012).
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