State seeks national designation for Arkansas River
National water trail status would benefit the public, the river and local communities
Following on the success of the Kansas River being named a national water trail by the National Park Service (NPS) in July 2012, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) wants the same designation for a portion of the Arkansas River in Kansas. That goal is a little closer thanks to technical assistance KDWPT will receive from the NPS Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program to develop the designation application. The goal is national water trail recognition for the Arkansas River Water Trail from Great Bend downstream to the Oklahoma border, a network of public river access points providing recreational and conservation opportunities, as well as enhancing the prospects for communities and businesses to attract enthusiastic river-goers and boost local revenues.
The Arkansas River is classified as a “navigable water,” so the right of the public to travel on the water is protected by law. The river provides over 180 miles of publicly navigable water and riparian wildlife habitat in Kansas. The public may use the waterway between the ordinary high-water marks on each bank, but people aren’t allowed to trespass on private property adjacent to the river. As a result, it is important to establish reasonably-spaced public access points at suitable locations. Currently, the Arkansas River Water Trail includes more than 15 public access sites established in partnership with cities, counties and private landowners. KDWPT will work with the NPS to engage additional partners and stakeholders, set priorities to analyze issues and opportunities, improve public information resources, and achieve the national water trail designation.
“Designating the Arkansas River as a national water trail will help draw tourists who enjoy leisurely excursions and want to experience Kansas in a unique way,” said KDWPT Secretary Robin Jennison. “Many people might not think of our state as a place to take a river trip, but the Arkansas and Kansas rivers offer some really great opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy parts of the state that are often overlooked.”
According to Jessica Mounts, KDWPT district fisheries biologist, the project is community-driven and individuals and groups interested in water trail development are encouraged to volunteer. Planning meetings will begin in March, 2015. For more information on meeting dates and locations, contact Jessica Mounts at 316-683-8069 or email [email protected].