This blog is from our partner, Eric Davis who currently serves as Director of Dorchester County Parks and Recreation Department. He is an avid fisherman and lifelong paddler.
From childhood to adulthood and through the lens of my chosen profession, I have always viewed waterways as an indispensable outlet for recreational pursuits for all ages and ability levels. In the South Carolina Lowcountry water is everywhere. However, in the suburban population centers around Summerville and North Charleston in Dorchester County, the Ashley River represents the only public waterway suitable for a wide variety of water based activities.
As a fairly new resident and employee of Dorchester County, I am learning how extremely fortunate we are to host a portion of the Ashley River within our borders as it snakes from headwaters in Cypress Swamp toward ever-widening salt marshes and onward to Charleston Harbor. My daughter Mariella has taken her first paddle strokes in this waterway, helping Daddy get a feel for all this lazy Lowcountry tidal river has to offer.
The Ashley River is located in one of the most rapidly growing regions in the United States. Because of this, it is even more imperative that we work now to promote and preserve the Ashley River as an easily accessible recreational oasis for a multitude of activities that do so much to benefit us economically, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Toward this end, plans for developing riverfront parkland, access points, special events, and programming that showcase the recreational value of the Ashley River figure prominently into Dorchester County’s current effort to create its first ever park system.
The fact that American Rivers has taken the lead in creating the Ashley River Blue Trail dovetails seamlessly with Dorchester County’s plans. A Blue Trail is a river adopted by a local community that is dedicated to improving family-friendly recreation such as fishing, boating, and wildlife-watching, and conserving riverside land. Just as hiking trails are designed to help people explore the land, Blue Trails help people discover their rivers. They help communities improve recreation and tourism, benefit local businesses and the economy, and protect river health and wildlife. They are voluntary, cooperative, locally led efforts that improve community quality of life. As a nationwide leader in blue trail development, American Rivers has supported Dorchester County’s objectives for the Ashley with expertise, technical assistance, and community organizing.
A major milestone in the Ashley River Blue Trail project is the release of the Ashley River Blue Trail Map. Through American Rivers’ leadership, a coalition of public and private entities pulled together to design and fund the Ashley River Blue Trail Map. This map is a positive step in encouraging enhanced utilization and stewardship of this outstanding recreational resource. It is Dorchester County’s hope that the map must be updated frequently as additional blue trail infrastructure comes to fruition!
Look for information about obtaining waterproof hardcopies of the map in the coming months. Until then, Mariella and I will see you on the river!
Photo Courtesy of South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources; Ashley Scenic River