During the planning process, you’ll receive many suggestions for potential launch sites from individuals, organizations, government agencies, and businesses. Lay out the route on paper, consider these suggestions, and make initial selections based on the location of roads, accessibility of the terrain, and spacing along the route. Initial access typically will be at existing parks or open space, federal and state boating launches, private marinas, campgrounds, and lands owned by non-profit organizations and individuals. As the Blue Trail expands, additional access sites can be secured.
Now that you have identified potential access points, you face the challenging but rewarding job of obtaining permission to use lands for launches, campsites, and other facilities.
Even if land is publicly owned, it doesn’t mean it will automatically be accessible to Blue Trail users. You will need to request permission from the public land manager. Natural and recreational areas are usually a good place to start. These areas may already have camping or other overnight accommodations and well-established launch sites. Public land managers will have many of the same questions as private property owners. Do your research and be prepared when approaching these managers about becoming partners in your project.
Easy access is vital to draw people to a Blue Trail and riverfront. Many times, this means working with private landowners. It’s important to get landowner permission for Blue Trail users to use their property whether it’s to access the river, stop and stretch their legs, or camp overnight.
Private landowners can open their land to recreational use by formal or informal agreements or may sell or donate land through conservation easements and acquisitions. To identify landowners, you can go to the tax assessor’s office for copies of the tax parcel maps for each parcel of land in your Blue Trail corridor. These maps will also show the boundaries of individual parcels. Your local land trust may also provide this information and help you identify and approach supportive landowners.
Private property owners will be interested in the stewardship and management services you will offer to ensure protection of their property. They will want to know about anticipated usage and plans for facilities and services before agreeing to allow access to their land or exploring the possibility of an easement or acquisition.
Public access to rivers is a complex issue and liability can be a concern among landowners. To learn more see Resources: Access and Navigability and Resources for Blue Trails: Liability to learn about laws and rights in your state.
For information on common landowner concerns see Build a Blue Trail: Work with Landowners.