The development of the 300-plus mile Flint River Water Trail stretching from Clayton and Fayette counties to Decatur and Seminole counties has officially begun.
A water trail is similar to a hiking trail but on a waterway with safe public access points, information kiosks and signage, and family friendly amenities such as picnic areas and facilities along the route.
Georgia River Network, a statewide nonprofit organization, requires that a water trail fulfill six criteria to be considered ‘established’ and featured on the Georgia Water Trail Clearinghouse at www.gawatertrails.org. Georgia River Network’s Community Programs Coordinator, Gwyneth Moody, explained that “Many Georgia communities are already taking advantage of the multiple benefits provided by water trails.” There are currently 15 established and 17 developing water trails in Georgia.
Stakeholders from across the Flint River basin have expressed interest in supporting the development of the Flint River Water Trail, ranging from state, county, and city officials and representatives, to non-profit organizations (Flint Riverkeeper, Southern Conservation Trust, and Sierra Club-Georgia Chapter) and local businesses (Flint RiverQuarium, Chehaw Park, Georgia Power, and Kayak Attack Outfitters).
There are more than one million paddlers in Georgia, and more than $23 billion is spent in outdoor recreation in the state each year. The proposed water trail could help Georgia meet the growing demand for outdoor recreation activities and, in turn, boost tourism and economic development within communities and throughout the state. Water trails are also an effective way to introduce people to river issues and to engage them in the protection of their local waterways.
Gwyneth Moody facilitated the Flint River Water Trail stakeholder kickoff meeting at the end of February in Americus. The purpose of the meeting was to identify the long term vision and short term goals for the Flint River Water Trail.
It was determined that the large Flint River basin will be divided into the 3 sub-basin working groups that will meet independently on a monthly basis, with basin-wide quarterly meetings facilitated by Georgia River Network throughout the year.
Sub-basin working group areas:
Upper Flint: Clayton, Fayette, Spalding, Meriwether, Pike, Upson, Talbot, Crawford, Taylor, Peach
Middle Flint: Macon, Dooly, Sumter, Lee, Crisp (Lake Blackshear)
Lower Flint: Worth, Dougherty (Lake Chehaw), Mitchell, Baker, Miller, Decatur, Seminole (Lake Seminole)
In the Upper Flint sub-basin group, a 7.5-mile water trail is being established. The Whitewater Creek Paddling Trail will begin at The Ridge, a new public access nature area managed by the Southern Conservation Trust. It is set to open in early May. Project work days to open the first few segments of the water trail were recently announced and can be followed on facebook at Whitewater Creek Paddle Trail or Southern Conservation Trust. Additional information is available at www.sctlandtrust.org.
The Georgia River Network is among the organizations to support a water trail for recreational boating, canoeing, kayaking and fishing.
“Water trails have many benefits for relatively little investment, and they can help diversify local economies,” said Moody in a statement. Georgia River Network has been assisting communities throughout the state in the development of water trails as a way to boost economic development, bring in tourism, and increase recreational opportunities.
The Flint River Water Trail is one of such trails under development along the creeks and river itself, but will affect all or portions of the 43 counties that make up the Flint River Basin. And although there are several dozen existing public access points along the Flint river, many of these could use improvements.
“We are very, very excited to see the level of enthusiasm for this project that has already been invested in the work of the steering committee,” said Flint Riverkeeper Gordon Rogers. “Volunteers from throughout the Flint basin have responded to the call to help get this project off of the ground. This work will yield tremendous benefits for the Flint’s communities and Georgia at large.”
“Ultimately, Georgia River Network hopes to see the Flint River become an established water trail in Georgia– bringing economic benefits to the surrounding communities, improving quality of life by providing recreation opportunities, and ensuring a healthy and clean river,” explained Moody. “The Flint River Water Trail will provide recreational opportunities, connect local and neighboring communities to the Flint River and support a growing and vibrant tourism industry that provides jobs throughout the outfitting, hospitality and travel sectors.”
The next Flint River Water Trail stakeholders meeting will be April 26 from 1-3 p.m. at the Americus-Sumter County Chamber of Commerce, 409 Elm Ave. in Americus.
For more information about the Flint River Water Trail, contact Moody at email@example.com.
Georgia River Network and partnering organization, Flint Riverkeeper will highlight and paddle a section of the Flint River Water Trail during their annual “Fall Float on the Flint” paddling and camping trip on Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 8-10.