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Paddling National Water Trails

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In less than a year, the Secretary of the Interior designated 14 rivers as National Water Trails. Ken Salazar stated, “Rivers, lakes, and other waters are the lifeblood of our communities, connecting us to our environment, our culture, our economy and way of life.”

The creation of the National Water Trail System and the designation of the first 14 rives are major triumphs paddlers. It means that American waterways are now safe passages. In addition, not only can paddlers enjoy their sport they can contribute to the communities where the designated are.

A member of the Willamette Riverkeeper described the contribution each paddler makes. “We want people to fall in love with the river. They get on it, develop a relationship with the river, become a steward, and protect it. It’s endearing, we want people coming back and doing it over and over again.”

For anyone not familiar with the National Water Trail System, the following is a brief introduction.

  1. What is the National Water Trail System?

On February 2 2012, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar signed a Secretarial Order that created the National Water Trails System. The NWTS is distinctive national network of exemplary water trails cooperatively supported and sustained.

The National Water Trails System will encourage Americans to participate the conservation and restoration of the nation’s waterways through mutual support and cooperation of federal, state, local and nonprofits.

  1. National Water Trails: Who Designates Them? Who Manages Them?

The Secretary of the Interior or, in some cases, the Secretary of Agriculture designates National Water Trails. The designations recognize exemplary trails of local and regional importance. The NPS (Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) is the primary administrator.

  1. What are the National Water Trail and Best Management Practices?

Each trail must meet four criteria. It must be open to the public. Each trail complies with environmental laws. Trails are open to the public for ten years. Landowners support designated trails where access points exist on their property.

  1. What Are the Benefits of National Water Trail Designation?

There are several benefits for local communities where waterways receive designation. They receive a letter and certificate from the Secretary of the Interior. There is national promotion and visibility. Communities gain increased tourism.

  1. How Do I Apply for National Water Trail Designation?

The first is to submit a formal application via an application account access through National Water Trail System website. A select team reviews all applications. They forward nominations to the Secretary of the Interior.

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