Multi-Faceted Group Discusses Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Representatives of nearly 15 conservation and resource groups met recently to discuss organizing a Connecticut River paddlers’ trail of campsites and access points running from the Connecticut Lakes in northern New Hampshire to the Massachusetts border.

The Connecticut River, which flows about 410 miles from its source in the Connecticut Lakes to its terminus at Long Island Sound, is a natural and recreational gem and the border between Vermont and New Hampshire. The groups that met December 15th ranged from the Vermont River Conservancy, which sponsored the event in St. Johnsbury, VT, to land trusts, the power company that operates dams on the river, and other organizations interested in the river’s recreational and environmental future.

The discussion was wide-ranging, but the organizations were united in their interest in making sure that potential recreational impacts on the river don’t detract from the Connecticut’s beauty and health. Although there are already campsites along the river, there is no single organization that coordinates the planning and development of new sites and the stewardship of access and camping along the entire paddlers’ trail. The discussions, led by VRC Executive Director Steve Libby, were a preliminary effort aimed at envisioning a future paddlers’ trail.

“We suggested that each organization decide on one, most important action they are planning to undertake over the next year,” said VRC founder Stephan Syz. “When this information is received by the Vermont River Conservancy, organized and redistributed, all groups will have a sense of the steps that are in the works to move the idea of a paddlers’ trail along. This will gradually bring people to the North Country to use this special resource and provide some economic benefits to the region.”

Among the issues discussed were:
• The best way to create a collaborative entity that encompasses many participating groups, protects the natural landscape of the river, manages campsites and ensures accessibility to the public.
• How to create a web page and a single set of signs, guidebooks and maps that includes information contained in current publications.
• Importance of standards, such as leave-no-trace camping, litter clean-up and sanitation, and building upon the Connecticut River Primitive Campsite Stewardship Protocol, which sets guidelines for campsite locations, user etiquette, and landowner relations.
• How to cooperate to link any new campsites to already established ones such as those overseen by the Upper Valley Land Trust, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, TransCanada Hydro Northeast and other organizations.
• The importance of working closely with landowners, volunteers and communities along the river.
• Identifying sites most suitable for campsites.
• How to get information out about a paddlers’ trail without over-promoting use of the river.

Among the organizations represented at the event were: Connecticut River Watershed Council; Vermont Land Trust; Friends of the Nulhegan; Columbia, N.H., Conservation Commission; Northern Forest Canoe Trail; TransCanada Hydro Northeast; NorthWoods Stewardship Center; National Park Service Rivers and Trails Program; Silvio Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge; Upper Valley Land Trust; Connecticut River Joint Commission; Vermont Department of Forest and Parks; and Vermont River Conservancy.

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