National Park Service teams up with The Last Green Valley

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Regional - posted Mon., Aug. 8, 2011
Some access points along the river's proposed National Recreation Trails will be as rudimentary as a sand or gravel patch. Photos by D. Coffey.
Some access points along the river's proposed National Recreation Trails will be as rudimentary as a sand or gravel patch. Photos by D. Coffey.

If all goes according to plan, two more sections of the Quinebaug River from Simonzi Park in Putnam to the canoe launch in Pomfret, and the Wayne R. Lafrenier Memorial Canoe Launch in Killingly to Manship Park in Canterbury will soon be designated National Water Trails. That's if National Park Service Outdoor Planner John Monroe completes stewardship plans and applications by November of this year.

Monroe is one of 75 outdoor planners with the National Park Service's Rivers and Trails Program. Based out of Boston, Monroe has been working closely with The Last Green Valley to “turn a good idea into a ribbon-cutting,” as he likes to put it. In this case, he is trying to help TLGV assess sections of the Quinebaug River in order to compile paddle guides and eventually file for National Recreation Trail status.

“Every group I work with has a different set of needs,” he said. For this project, he has already spearheaded organization efforts to bring in volunteers, schedule events, create river assessment forms and identify partnerships to ensure the trail system will continue long after his technical assistance ends.

“The difference between a water trail and putting your canoe in the water is that there is a stewardship element to the water trail,” said Monroe. That stewardship includes controlling erosion problems and maintaining access points. And because rivers do not recognize town or state boundaries, or property lines of any sort, the stewardship plans require convincing towns and utility companies, to name a few, to sign on to the plan.

What this might mean for Putnam, Pomfret, Killingly and Canterbury is a promise to maintain the boat launches along the Quinebaug River for public use for 10 years.

The Quinebaug already has two sections designated as National Recreation Trails. The first section is a 5-mile stretch from Holland Pond to the East Brimfield Lake in Massachusetts. The second section is in Connecticut, from Fabyan to the West Thompson Dam. Both trails are on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property.

According to TLGV Deputy Executive Director Lois Bruinooge, the next step is to work on paddle guides for sections of the river from Putnam to Pomfret and from Killingly to Canterbury. “No money comes with the designation of National Recreation Trails,” she said, “but it does get you recognition and a listing on other data bases. If other people were looking for places to canoe or kayak, they'd find us. And it brings more publicity.”

More than 1,000 trails in 50 states are currently listed on the American Trails website (www.americantrails.org/NRT). Currently, the only water trail designated a National Recreation Trail in Connecticut is the Quinebaug River Water Trail from Fabyan to the West Thompson Dam. Monroe and Bruinooge are working to increase that number.

It's a sizable project, and Monroe and Bruinooge have counted on numerous volunteers to help. They have been out paddling the river with assessment forms in order to inventory the stretches of river under consideration. The assessment forms are used to record the conditions of the river and its features, from white to still water. Access points have had to be identified and described, with GPS coordinates thrown in for good measure. Photographs of the launch sites in both spring and fall have been taken, town landmarks recorded, available parking spaces listed, and water depth recorded. Immediate and long-term conservation and recreation problems are listed, along with hazards and limitations the river offers paddlers attempting to use it. Monroe then takes the data and organizes it into a usable paddle guide.

It's exactly what Monroe did when he was working with the Willimantic River Alliance to compose paddle guides. They were designed so that people could print them out on their home computers. They could print out the whole paddle guide, or just the section they were interested in paddling.

Eric Rumsey, of Paddle Killingly, a loose-knit group of recreational kayakers who have been meeting for almost three years, said people need to get out there and use the waterways. “The more people we get to do it, the better,” he said.
For more information, or to volunteer, visit the website www.tlgv.org.


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