Earlier this month American Whitewater conducted an online survey of the paddling community regarding the management of the Lower Youghiogheny River in Western Pennsylvania. The Lower Yough is a classic whitewater river with a long season, summer dam releases, and wonderful scenery protected by Ohiopyle State Park. American Whitewater has provided the full survey results to State Park river managers to help inform their decisions. Nearly 600 paddlers completed the survey.
Due to significant recreational demand for both commercial and noncommercial boating in the past the Park caps use, charges fees, and requires a partial shuttle service be used during peak times. These measures, along with limits on running Ohiopyle Falls and various rules relating to water levels and craft, make the Lower Yough one of the most intensively managed whitewater day-trips in the United States. Big changes to boater parking and access in Ohiopyle as well as the renewal of the shuttle service permit suggested the need for enhanced public input to help inform the Park's management through this transition period.
Survey respondents indicated that they have reduced their use of the Lower Yough in recent years for a wide variety of reasons, principally personal reasons and the fees. Most respondents are generally satisfied with the shuttle service, though many offered ideas for improvement. A majority of respondents did not feel the quota system is important, and also feel that the fees are unreasonable. Respondents indicated they would paddle the Lower Yough more if there were no fees. The voluminous comments collected through the survey were shared in full with the Park, and offer a treasure trove of ideas and constructive feedback.
We would like to thank the almost 600 paddlers who took the time to fill out the survey, the volunteers that helped us craft it, and for Ohiopyle State Park for welcoming the input. American Whitewater shared the Survey Results with Park staff late last week.