Thursday, January 29, 2015

Water Access Could Be Restricted In Washington State

 
It was raining hard on the South Fork of the American River. We unloaded our kayaks from our parked car just off the Highway 49 and walked a crooked path to the river. Under the bridge we escaped the rain and found easy access to the river. We were soon paddling down the river.
It is a scene I have done time and time again. Using the bridge right-of-away to gain access to the waterway. Across the country, informal access sites are used by paddlers and fisherman along roads and within bridge right-of-ways to get to the lake and stream in a few simple steps.
That all might change in Washington State with a bill underway this legislative session that would severely limit access to the state's waterways. The bill introduced by Representative Larry Haler from Richland,  would prohibit water access on small parcels of public land unless the managing agency provides a formal river access site and parking lot. Under proposed legislation, public land managers would be required to post signage that public access to the water is prohibited on small parcels of public land without formal parking that currently provide access to our state's waterways. Violators would be charged with a misdemeanor.
 I support development of river access and designated parking sites along the waterway's corridor where use levels are a practical investment. I have used many public access sites over the years enjoying their benefits. However, I still feel this would hamper and limit many paddling experiences along rivers without access points and fear it might be used as precedent for other states restricting water access.
"Diligence and recurring defenses of our freedoms that we often take for granted is a never ending responsibility of the many, not just the few." posted Californian kayaker Dan Crandall on Facebook, "Those fights can manifest themselves in places you might never expect, and therefore you must be prepared to recognize the signs when they appear. I'd call this a sign to be noticed before the battleground grows. Let your Washington state friends know."
 
The full text of the bill is below:
 
 House Bill 1056:
 
AN ACT Relating to restricting the use of certain parcels of public land to access a public body of water; adding a new section to chapter 79.02 RCW; and prescribing penalties.
 
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON:
 
NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. A new section is added to chapter 79.025RCW to read as follows:
 
(1) If a parcel of public land is one-quarter of a square mile or less in size and is adjacent to a body of public water and the land is or can be used to access the body of public water, the governmental entity which has jurisdiction of the land must provide adequate public parking for persons utilizing the land to access the water.
 
(2) If adequate public parking is not provided, using the land to access the water for other than a governmental purpose is prohibited. If adequate public parking is not provided, the governmental entity which has jurisdiction of the land must post a warning sign for the public that clearly shows that using the land to access the water is prohibited and states the sanction for a violation of the prohibition.
 
(3) A violation of this section is a misdemeanor.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Urban Paddler

The Mississippi River and downtown St Paul, Minnesota.
There is a whirl of activity at Hidden Falls Park in St. Paul, Minnesota. Shuttle buses are coming and going. Kayaks and canoes are being unloaded and carried to the grassy staging area next to the river. Numbers are have been assigned, pictures are being taken, while water, apples and granola bars are packed into the boats. It is the annual Migthyssippi River Adventure Race day on the Mississippi River. Over a 100 hundred paddlers have signed up for the 14 mile charity event through the Twin Cities. The paddlers instructions on the river are easy: Be Safe, stay to the right of the river when traveling downstream. Avoid all boats and barges and have fun.
A countdown from the loudspeakers and soon the river is filled with kayaks and canoes of every color and size. Before long the paddlers spread out going past Fort Snelling State Park and the skyline of St Paul giving each one their own perspective of the famous river. At times it is gritty and industrial, but also offers an oasis of nature in the heart of city dwellings.
Most paddlers feel like they are discovering it for the first time. They are surprised that an urban river can contain so much beauty and nature. It happens all the time for urban paddlers. The waterways thought to be dirty and polluted are found clean, inviting and full of wildlife. On the Red River between Fargo and Moorhead, I have seen deer, beaver and even a bald eagle along the bends of the rivers just blocks away from downtown. River otters splash and hide in the rocks underneath the Rainbow Bridge over Lake Natoma and the American River, while farther down Californian quail, deer, and Canadian geese find a haven in the sloughs.

The American River Parkway

On the river urban views are blocked by trees. The only reminder that one is even close to civilization is going under the cities train and highway bridges. The buzz of traffic echos off the water giving us the only clue we are close to home. In some places we go back in time past turn of the century mills and remnants. Along the Red River on the Moorhead side I can still find broken bottles from the prohibition days when North Dakota was dry and Minnesota taverns were right on the river. On the American River huge piles of dredge tailings are still visible from gold mining days. The water ways are no longer highways or dumping grounds and the rivers have now reclaimed their banks.
 
Paddling in downtown Fargo, North Dakota.

Canoeist Natalie Warren founder of the outdoor education nonprofit Wild River Academy has trekked the waterways across the country to observe how rivers arer promoted in their communities. In a recent interview with Canoe & Kayak Magazine said, "When I paddled urban rivers from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay and from Minnesota down to the Gulf of Mexico, I realized that our local water trails have their own beauty and, even more, provide a classroom to learn how our country uses rivers. My experiences on wild and urban rivers inspired me to speak about building a culture around urban paddling, diversifying the paddling community, and increasing recreation, positively impacting all aspects of society."

Natalie Warren, left and Ann Raiho in Fargo, N.D., during the 2011 Minneapolis to Hudson Bay Trip

Warren's goal is to increase recreation through the public waterways in river towns with the addition outfitters, hiking and bike paths, restaurants and interpretive centers, campgrounds and most important access to the water.
 "I hope to highlight the positive ripple effects of opening up to the river and prioritizing water trails to improve recreation and trails, tourism and economies, and increased environmental education and ecosystem health. It all starts with a paddle in the water. Every time you paddle locally you are partaking in a larger movement for the betterment of communities, ecosystems, and the future of river-town economies."
Paddlers taking part in the Mightyssippi River Adventure finished the day under the Interstate 94 bridge, 14 miles down stream. They came away with sore muscles and smiles with this annual day on the Mississippi. Of course for some, this experience is only a warm up to their annual Boundary Waters trip or life long dream of going down the Grand Canyon. However, paddling locally and exploring their neighborhood water trail gave them a low-cost view of the river, right in their own backyard.


Friday, January 9, 2015

Kayak Resolution

 The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare to let go. Our true work is this voyage, this  adventure.  (Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah)

 It is the start of the new year for us all. For some of us, it  is time setup, plan and dream about trips in this oncoming year. 

Armed with two new books, Paddling Northern California, from Falcon Guide and The American River Insider's Guide to Recreation Ecology and Cultural History of the North, Middle and South Forks, from Protect American River Canyons. I look through the pages researching and planning new kayak trips. Paddling Northern California by Charlie Pike is now in its second edition complete with color pictures and maps. Pike details 70 river and lake trips through out the northern tier of California. He highlights take out and put in information as well as giving overview of the paddling experience. Meanwhile, The American River is guide to the North, Middle and South Forks of California's American River. It is in it's third edition giving great tips for both hiking and paddling. It was put together by a host of contributors giving a local flavor and history of the three river canyons. After thumbing through the pages I brim with excitement and anticipation of the new year. So many water trails, so little time.

My goal is to get out and paddle more, visit these places and make them more to me than just a couple of pages in a travel book. An over night paddling trip down the Sacramento River, an outing at Elkhorn Slough and kayaking across on Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe. I paddled 133 days last year and look forward to getting close to that mark again, yet still haven't not hit some favorite places on the map.

Still,  I have a paddling buddy who said, "You know I really like paddling and kayaking a lot." He then paused looking over the lake and added,  "But, there are so many other fun things I like to do to."

 I have to agree with him. I need to get my mountain bike out of the garage and take it down the trail. My cross country skis and snowshoes have been sitting in the corner way to long. I need to try downhill skiing and hike uphill backpacking. So this new year, I look forward to experiences both old and new. Seeing the more the world around me in many different ways, of course over the bow as my favorite.