April 27, 2009
Texas ó When the Buffalo Bayou Paddling Trail is dedicated April
28, it will be the 16th Texas Paddling Trail and ó at 26 miles ó the
longest in the state. Notable as an oasis for wildlife and
tranquility in the nationís fourth-largest city, the Buffalo Bayou
Paddling Trail is only the first of nearly a dozen paddling trails
expected to be unveiled this year.
"There has been a huge surge of interest in the Texas Paddling
Trails program over the past year or so," said Shelly Plante, nature
tourism coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
"Communities across the state have seen the benefits a designated
paddling trail has on local economies, and canoeists and kayakers
seem to be excited about exploring new waters."
May 2 brings the dedication of the Limestone Bluffs Paddling Trail
on the Navasota River between Groesbeck and Mexia. Also, May 6, the
City of Austin and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department will
dedicate an 11-mile circuit on the capital cityís downtown Lady Bird
Lake (formerly Town Lake). And by early June, three trails will come
online at Martin Dies, Jr. State Park near Jasper. The three trails
will be the Neches Paddling Trail, Walnut Paddling Trail and Sandy
Creek Paddling Trail.
The Brazos River will get two new paddling trails ó one near Glen
Rose and one near Brazoria, and storied Village Creek near Lumberton
will have an 8.5-mile reach designated as well.
Later in the summer, the Gonzales Independence Paddling Trail is
slated for unveiling on the Guadalupe River near Gonzales, and a new
trail on the Colorado River near Webberville also will be dedicated.
The Red Bluff Paddling Trail, the third planned for the Colorado
River near Bastrop, was set for an October opening, but has been
postponed pending the sale of private lands along the route.
Denise Rodgers, co-owner of Rising Phoenix Adventures in Bastrop,
was instrumental in getting more than 20 miles of the Colorado River
designated as the El Camino Real and Wilbarger Paddling Trails.
"After we launched El Camino Real in 2007, we had about 1,400 people
go down that trail the first year," she said. "Last year, when we
launched Wilbarger, we put about 3,200 people on the river. That
doesnít count all the people who are coming and bringing their own
boats. Itís been incredible for our community."
Rodgers said that of the paddlers who rent boats from her livery,
about one-third were from Bastrop and Travis Counties, and the
majority of the paddlers she met were from Houston and San Antonio.
"Our business is booming right now, unlike a lot of other sectors of
the economy," Rodgers said. "Nature tourism is booming because
people are getting back to basics and itís affordable"
Plante said new paddling trails are officially opened only after
local partners ó cities, counties, river authorities or conservation
organizations ó have secured local support and made any necessary
improvements to put-in and take-out locations on a proposed trail.
"This is a collaborative process between TPWD and local partners,"
Plante said. "We have significant technical and promotional
resources we can put at the disposal of anyone who wants to
establish a new paddling trail on public waters, but the process
always starts at the local level."
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