AW and NPS Co-Host Access Meetings in Harpers Ferry (WV/MD/VA)
Earlier this month American Whitewater and the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance program (RTCA) hosted a series of meetings and site visits in the Harper's Ferry, WV area. The goals of the meetings were to gather information on river access issues and opportunities, and to gage interest in the development and implementation of a river access plan.
The Shenandoah and Potomac rivers converge in the historical town of Harper's Ferry, WV. Both rivers are popular class II-III whitewater runs that share takeouts after their confluence in Harper's Ferry. Together these rivers are enjoyed by thousands of kayakers, canoeists and rafters, as well as many anglers, sightseers, and swimmers from across the Mid-Atlantic region.
Public river access to these important rivers has long fallen through the jurisdictional cracks: the rivers flow between lands managed by three states, three National Parks, numerous outfitters, a railroad company, and numerous private landowners. The river access options have shifted many times in recent years, and limited parking spaces are often overwhelmed by summer visitors. The result is dangerous, frustrating, and challenging access that is not commensurate with the quality of the rivers.
American Whitewater applied for assistance from RTCA in 2014 to help develop a river access plan that would explore solutions across all jurisdictional boundaries. Between January 13th and 15th, AW and RTCA staff met with 18 leaders from the regional paddling community, as well as state and county planners, transportation planners, outfitters, and National Park staff. The meetings were followed up by site visits to over 20 river access sites which we photographed and recorded GPS coordinates for mapping. The information gathered will form the basis for a draft river access plan and highlight opportunities for river access enhancements.
We would like to thank all those who attended the meetings and contributed outstanding ideas and knowledge to this project. Next up RTCA and AW will compile the information we gathered and seek feedback from a broader community of river visitors (including the AW members). In addition, we've identifed several time-sensitive opportunities for river access enhancements that we'll be taking action on right away. Stay tuned for opportunities to get involved!