The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is pushing to have a portion of the Arkansas River from Great Bend downstream to the Oklahoma border named a national water trail by the National Park Service.
The chances of that happening were just enhanced by the announcement that KDWPT will get some technical help from the NPS Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program to help develop the application for designation.
There is a history of success in the program in Kansas, with the Kansas River already named a national water trail.
The designation allows the development of a network of public river access points providing recreational and conservation opportunities, as well as enhancing the prospects for communities and businesses to attract enthusiastic river-goers and boost local revenues.
The Arkansas River is classified as a "navigable water," so the right of the public to travel on the water is protected by law. The river provides more than 180 miles of publicly navigable water and riparian wildlife habitat in Kansas.
Public access points
The public may use the waterway between the ordinary high-water marks on each bank, but people aren't allowed to trespass on private property adjacent to the river. As a result, it is important to establish reasonably-spaced public access points at suitable locations.
Currently, the Arkansas River Water Trail includes more than 15 public access sites established in partnership with cities, counties and private landowners. KDWPT will work with the NPS to engage additional partners and stakeholders, set priorities to analyze issues and opportunities, improve public information resources, and achieve the national water trail designation.
"Designating the Arkansas River as a national water trail will help draw tourists who enjoy leisurely excursions and want to experience Kansas in a unique way," said KDWPT Secretary Robin Jennison. "Many people might not think of our state as a place to take a river trip, but the Arkansas and Kansas rivers offer some really great opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy parts of the state that are often overlooked."
According to Jessica Mounts, KDWPT district fisheries biologist, the project is community-driven and individuals and groups interested in water trail development are encouraged to volunteer. Planning meetings will begin in March, 2015. For more information on meeting dates and locations, contact Jessica Mounts at 316-683-8069 or email [email protected].