September 18, 2008

‘Water Trail’ Designation Seen Boosting Greenway

By Jack Brubaker

As the Susquehanna rolled by, a number of the river's friends gathered at Long Level Tuesday to praise its virtues.

Earlier this summer, the National Park Service designated the middle and lower sections of the river - from Sunbury to the Maryland border - as a National Recreation Trail.

That includes the water flowing by Shanks Mare Outfitters at Long Level, York County, where some of those who helped process the designation met to laud creation of the nation's third water trail.

"It's easy to see why the Susquehanna has been designated as a national water trail," said Joe DiBello, a National Park Service representative, as he looked out Shanks Mare's windows to the widest part of the river just north of Turkey Hill.

A water trail is something special, he said, and this one particularly so because of its "world-class fishing and boating and rich history and recreational resources."

The Susquehanna Water Trail is now recognized as part of the national system of trails, he explained. That means it is linked with the Appalachian and North Country and other noted land trails.

Practical values of the national designation, DiBello said, are listing on the National Park Service Web site, inclusion in NPS signage and printed materials, technical assistance for future river projects and "perhaps financial assistance."

Gary Bloss, executive director of the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership, one of the sponsors of the water trail application, said the designation "raises the level of the resource as not just a local asset but really as a state and national asset."

The Susquehanna Greenway is a planned corridor of trails and parks providing water access along the entire 440-mile river and its West Branch.

Bloss said he hopes the river trail becomes "a synergistic driver for the Greenway," encouraging opportunities for the entire Greenway to grow.

"It really does mean community revitalization, environmental stewardship, enhanced recreation and conservation education," he said.

As for community revitalization, Bloss particularly commended the work of Claire Storm, president of Rivertownes Pa. USA (booster of Columbia, Marietta and Wrightsville) as "probably the model we should follow throughout the entire Greenway corridor."

Jonathan Pinkerton, deputy director of the Lancaster-York Heritage Region, the other sponsor of the river trail application, introduced the program by pointing out several unique features of the lower river.

He said these include the Conejohela Flats, the potholed rocks below York Haven Dam and the American Indian petroglyphs on rocks below Safe Harbor Dam.

Dave Keller, chairman of the Heritage Region's board of directors, commended the partnership of many governmental and non- profit groups that supported the water trail designation.

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