'Blue Trails Guide' to Help River Conservation

American Rivers on Nov. 17 released the "Blue Trails Guide," to help promote river recreation and conservation in local communities. Blue trails, the water equivalent to hiking trails, have the potential to stimulate local economies, encourage physical fitness, improve community pride, and make rivers and communities healthier. The guide is designed to make the process for establishing a successful blue trail easier and more accessible.

Available at http://www.bluetrailsguide.org/ and www.AmericanRivers.org, the guide provides step-by-step instructions for developing a thriving blue trail. Because a healthy river is necessary for a successful blue trail, the guide includes tips and goals for river conservation. The guide also has practical advice on planning, building, and managing a blue trail for conservation as well as case studies from experienced practitioners across the country.

"The Blue Trails Guide is an excellent resource that will help communities protect and restore their rivers and landscapes through recreation," said Jamie Mierau, director of River Protection for American Rivers. Blue trails provide opportunities for economic renewal and growth through jobs and tourism. And, because they can result in healthier rivers, blue trails can increase property values, provide cost effective flood control, and reduce infrastructure costs.

Communities across the country are realizing the conservation benefits of river recreation. The process for developing a blue trail on the Rappahannock River near Fredericksburg, Va., for example, began shortly after the Embrey Dam removal in 2004. The initial intent was to offer historic paddling trips along 30-miles of the river. With broad support from the community, the water trail was designated. The excitement for this water trail helped build support for a critical 4,200- acre conservation easement along the river. With more than 1 million people living within 30 miles of the property, these lands faced unprecedented development pressures. The eased lands contain streamside buffers that provide natural protection for Fredericksburg's water supply and allow people to enjoy the river without fear of encroaching development.