More than 60 leaders from all across the Kentucky River watershed gathered Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at Asbury Seminary for a first meeting of what is being called the Kentucky River Water Trail Alliance. Spawned by the growing interest in water trails throughout the country, the Kentucky River is now the focus of developing a 256-mile water trail that would improve access to the river by boaters who enjoy paddling, fishing, and other recreational activities on the river.
Last year, two major pools of the Kentucky River opened their own sections of water trails on pools 8 and 9. In Jessamine County, the idea has been developing for over 10 years. Now 42 miles of water trail are accessible with a guide and maps available online. Pool 9 celebrated its official ribbon cutting on National Trails Day in 2011, adding another 19 miles of water trail to the system.
Both pools are now official “Blue Water Trails”, a designation of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife in support of Governor Steve Beshear’s Adventure Tourism Initiative that highlights the floating, fishing and tourism opportunities on Kentucky’s streams and rivers. According to a 2006 report by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, 24 million Americans enjoy recreational paddling and that number appears to be growing.
“This Kentucky River Water Trail project will provide truly enriching experiences while creating great tourism assets for communities all along the way. We are excited to share the rich history, beauty, serenity and fun of traveling along one of America’s great rivers with a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts” said Marcheta Sparrow, Kentucky Secretary of Tourism, Arts & Heritage.
The Alliance is off to a great start working together to create an organization of stakeholders that support the development and stewardship of the Kentucky River Water Trail. “Our hope is that this initiative will unify projects and points of interest, improve recreational access to the river, educate communities and promote stewardship of the watershed”, said Pat Banks, the Kentucky Riverkeeper.
Our next step will be to develop an assessment of access, issues and opportunities for water trail development from Pools 1 through 14, forming the backbone of a plan to span the entire length of the Kentucky River. Project partners are working with community-led residents and organizations in each pool of the river to provide the support they need to improve access locally.
“The America’s Great Outdoors initiative was launched last year, and is aimed at addressing the growing issue of Americans who are losing their connection with outdoor places and the value they provide to our quality of life. The National Park Service, through our Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, has joined in partnership with the Kentucky Riverkeeper, Inc. and the Commonwealth of Kentucky to reconnect our nation, especially our youth, with the outdoors. This partnership will also seek to restore and increase access to rivers, lakes and waters in Kentucky, and to be a catalyst for river restoration and recreational water trails that power economic revitalization in communities throughout the Kentucky River watershed” said National Park Service Southeast Regional Director David Vela.
The Kentucky River Water Trail was selected in 2011 as one of 100 projects across the country to be recognized in the America’s Great Outdoor’s 50-State Report. President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors initiative to develop a 21st Century conservation and recreation agenda. Governor Beshear nominated the Kentucky River Water Trail as one of Kentucky’s two America’s Great Outdoors projects.
The Kentucky River Water Trail Alliance is a project of the Kentucky Riverkeeper, Inc. in partnership with the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA), Kentucky River Authority, KY Adventure Tourism, Jessamine County Kentucky River Task Force, Frankfort/Franklin County Tourist & Convention Commission, Canoe Kentucky, and Bluegrass Tomorrow.