Steps to Build a Blue Trail: Plan

Identify a River

boy in river with splashSo, your community in interested in improving river-based recreational opportunities and conserving the river and riverside lands but is your river a candidate for a Blue Trail? With Blue Trails, the possibilities are nearly endless. That said, not all rivers make good Blue Trails. Heavy commercial traffic, dangerous currents, and inaccessible shores are just a few issues that may stop a project in its tracks.

Similarly, a stunning river may be off limits due to the presence of endangered plants and wildlife. Any potential Blue Trail will have both positive and negative elements, so successful trails must have outstanding features that outweigh potential obstacles.

Keep in mind that a successful Blue Trail need not be a well-known paddling destination or in a remote and pristine place. In fact, communities everywhere are discovering that their hometown rivers can be excellent candidates for Blue Trails. If developed properly, a Blue Trail can bring a host of benefits to a community: an improved environment, enhanced economy, healthier people, and community pride.

Before proceeding with your Blue Trail, consider the checklist below. This checklist is not meant to be exhaustive but will give you a sense for whether your river is a good candidate for a Blue Trail. As you progress through the process of developing a Blue Trail, you will more thoroughly evaluate these and other important issues.

Generally speaking, you need the following for a successful Blue Trail:

Recreation and social values:

  • Rivers with potential for outstanding recreation that offer a variety of recreational experiences including paddling, fishing, hiking and wildlife-watching
  • Opportunities to further connect communities to important protected areas such as parks, refuges, and forests
  • Reasonably safe rivers (no dangerous currents, heavy commercial traffic) or the possibility of improving safety (removing trash, improving signage, removing obsolete dams)

Community support and engagement:

  • Strong potential for community, political, and business support for recreation and river conservation
  • Communities with existing access and recreation potential through public lands
  • Communities that have or are likely to establish river recreation outfitters or associated businesses (outfitters, fishing shops, rentals, etc.)
  • Community and/or regional fundraising potential

Conservation values:

  • Rivers that present opportunities to add value to other regional conservation work
  • Rivers that adjacent to already protected agers (parks, refuges, etc.)
  • Rivers that present opportunities to protect critical, irreplaceable landscapes through conservation easements, land acquisition, increased community engagement or improved public land management.

If your river meets these criteria, let’s begin the planning.