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Recreational Priorities

On behalf of the Vermont Paddlers Club, its 250 members, and thousands of other Vermont residents and non-residents who partake in paddling the rivers of Vermont we propose that the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan include the following priorities:

RESTORATION OF NAVIGABILITY OF THE LITTLE RIVER BELOW WATERBURY RESERVOIR

History: The Vermont Paddlers Club and the Friends of the Little River partnered with Washington-based American Whitewater and New England FLOW to secure recreational water releases for boating this 3 mile stretch of the Little River to its confluence with the Winooski, most of which is suitable for novice (class II) paddlers and which remains ice-free longer that almost any other river in Vermont. These negotiations were part of the recent re-licensing process between Green Mt. Power and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The re-licensing provisions also call for creation of parking areas above and below the whitewater portion of this river stretch. What remains to be done is the removal of a deadly low-head dam or weir where the USGS has its river gauging station, midway down the river. The USGS is amenable to the relocation of its gauge and removal of the weir, but is reluctant to pay the costs, which could be $10,000 plus or minus. For more detailed information contact Tom Christopher (tom.christopher@comcast.net) or Ray Ingram (rkicanoe@msn.com, 802-578-8367).

PRESERVATION OF THE TWO-DAY WHITEWATER DAM RELEASES FOR RECREATION ON THE WEST RIVER BELOW BALL MOUNTAIN DAM IN JAMAICA, VT

History: Representatives from various whitewater organizations including the Appalachian Mountain Club, FLOW, American Whitewater and others have been meeting and corresponding with the Army Corps of Engineers since March 1998 regarding the Corps' lack of communication and steady reduction of whitewater releases on their dams in New England especially on the West River.
Knowing full well of the concerns of the whitewater groups, the Army Corps of Engineers met separately with and reached flow agreements with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources and did not include whitewater representatives in this process. Subsequent meetings and correspondence with the Army Corps of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources have resulted in no progress.
As a result of the agreement made between ACOE and these agencies, Spring releases on the West which historically took place over two weekends in April and May have been reduced to one April weekend. In addition these agencies eliminated the second day whitewater release on the Fall weekend, unless there is an unusual amount of rain.
The purported threat to the West River ecosystem from these weekend water releases is unsubstantiated. This assertion is validated by charts and data found on the www: http://www.albany.net/~phbarn/west/
A survey conducted by Mike Crane of Burlington, VT in 2003 clearly demonstrated the economic windfall the West River releases affords the Londonderry-to-Brattleboro area each spring and fall (provided the ACE actually releases water). Although we are not clear how to leverage the SCORP to elevate the importance of this decades-long tradition in southern Vermont each spring and fall, we feel it must be a recreational priority, in light of the economic and recreational benefits accruing from these weekend paddling festivals on the West River.

PROCUREMENT AND DEVELOPMENT OF PRIMITIVE CAMPSITES FOR PADDLERS DESCENDING THE CONNECTICUT RIVER FROM THE CONNECTICUT LAKES TO THE MASSACHUSSETS BORDER

History: A good deal of work has been done by the Vermont Rivers Conservancy on this project, and they would welcome direct grant monies to continue to negotiate easements, etc. and organize the volunteer labor needed to prepare/maintain sites for overnight campers. http://www.vermontriverconservancy.org/

FEASIBILITY STUDY FOR A WHITEWATER PARK IN VERMONT

History: Whitewater Parks exist in a number of locations around the US and in Europe. They bring in tourist dollars, and provide energetic low-impact recreational opportunities for kayakers and canoeists. The Little River near Waterbury (see above) has been identified as a possible location for such a park in north central Vermont. For over a quarter century some have talked of the possibility to develop the Winooski River's Chace Mill rapid into a safer and more boater-friendly water park ( http://www.vtpaddlers.net/talk/bowstern/archive/1978-02.php#item8 ). There may be other, equally deserving, locations in Vermont where such a whitewater park would be a boon to tourism and community revitalization. We will be happy to discuss the successes of whitewater parks in communities like Denver Colorado, Reno, Nevada, South Bend, Indiana, etc. and participate in a feasibility study for Vermont.

ASSURING PUBLIC ACCESS TO NAVIGABLE WATERS WITHIN VERMONT

Access to a number of popular river reaches has been threatened over the years by private land acquisition and "posting". These include the final 1.5 miles of the Mad River in Moretown/Middlesex, the extremely popular "Lower Lamoille" in Fairfax, among others. The SCORP should be apprised of these public access issues and appropriate money toward securing easements and/or outright purchase of river landings which are heavily used by paddling enthusiasts and in danger of being closed to the public. In many cases, these same landings may be used by fisherman and/or swimmers and/or naturalists throughout the summer and fall - all the more reason to keep them open to the public in perpetuity.

Please contact representatives of the Vermont Paddlers Club if we can be of assistance in furthering any/all of these recreational objectives during your SCORP review.

Thank you,
Tony Shaw
259 Pleasant Acres Drive
Williston, VT 05495
802-879-1655 boatful@comcast.net
Ray Ingram
Burlington, VT
578-8367
rkicanoe@msn.com

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