Northeast Indiana Water Trails group working to help people use and enjoy local rivers safely
By Kevin Kilbane | The News-Sentinel
The Northeast Indiana Water Trails group encourages people get out and enjoy local rivers safely, and that work is progressing on a few different fronts, said Kyle Quandt, a principal planner with the Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council (NIRCC) and its project manager for Northeast Indiana Water Trails.
The water trails group has begun painting "Life Jacket Zone" warning signs on public-access boat ramps where people may put canoes, kayaks or other watercraft into local rivers, Quandt said. Indiana law requires that every person on a watercraft have a life preserver.
Before the recent high river levels, one warning sign was painted at the boat ramp into the St. Marys River in Guldlin Park, which is located along the south side of the river on the west end of downtown Fort Wayne.
Quandt also plans to get "Life Jacket Zone" signs painted near the public boat ramp in Johnny Appleseed Park and at a public ramp into Cedar Creek in northern Allen County. She has a temporary, free-standing sign that will be placed in the ground near the public dock at Headwaters Park East, off of Clinton and Superior streets.
The warning signs eventually will be painted on public boat ramps in the 10-county northeast Indiana area, she said.
If the signs seem effective in promoting boater safety, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has expressed interest in using them on public boat launching ramps throughout the state, Quandt said.
The Water Trails group also has been working with the Indiana DNR and Allen County Highway Department to get a public boat ramp installed on the St. Joseph River near the Mayhew Road bridge northeast of Fort Wayne, she said. The state has purchased the land it needs and now is in the process of seeking the permits needed to do the work. Construction is expected to start next year.
Northeast Indiana Water Trails also has created a waterproof "water trails" map of northeast Indiana showing streams, locations to launch and pull out watercraft, and facilities and points of interest near streams, Quandt said. The group also intends to create a water trails website where paddlers — canoers and kayakers — also can share tips and information about trips they have taken on area streams.
In addition, Northeast Indiana Water Trails also will hold its second Pedal, Paddle and Play event noon-8 p.m. June 10 to increase awareness about recreational use of local rivers and to raise money for its work. (See accompanying information.)
"It's an economic driver, too," Quandt said of recreational use of area streams. "I see rivers as the new Main Street — they take you where you want to go."
In addition, encouraging more people to use local streams also can help Allen County move toward meeting state goals for access to outdoor recreation, she said.
The Indiana DNR's Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) recommends counties have 20 acres of outdoor recreation area per 1,000 people, Quandt said. Allen County falls short of that goal by nearly 1,090 acres.
Outdoor recreation space in the four-county area of Allen, Adams, DeKalb and Wells counties also falls beneath recommended levels by a combined total of about 2,210 acres, she said.
Rivers, however, offer free access to outdoor recreation, she added.
Get out on the water
What: The Pedal, Paddle and Play event invites people to explore Fort Wayne's rivers via bicycle or watercraft and to learn about them by visiting several stations. People then can enjoy live music, food trucks and beverages at an after party. The event will take place rain or shine.
When: June 10 — Noon-4 p.m. for pedaling and paddling; 3 p.m., food trucks and bar open; 4-8 p.m. for after party. Environmental organization exhibits are open 2-4:30 p.m.
Where: Fort Wayne Outfitters & Bike Depot, 1004 Cass St. on the north side of the St. Marys River.
Cost: Adults, $25 for one or $45 for two; ages 15 and younger free with a paying adult. Register at www.getmeregistered.com/3RFCUPedalPaddlePlay through Monday and beginning at 11:30 a.m. the day of the event. Fee includes access to after party. After party-only admission is $5 per person.
- Bring your own bike or boat, or reserve one in advance from Fort Wayne Outfitters or Earth Adventures Unlimited.
- Northeast Indiana Water Trails needs volunteers to help with the event. To sign up, go to www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f44a9af2cabf85-pedal. Volunteers receive a free T-shirt and free admission to the after party.
The educational stations at Pedal, Paddle and Play will cover the following topics:
- What you can do to help area rivers and streams.
- Riverbank vegetation and why it is important.
- What is being done to improve local streams' water quality.
- Cultural history of local rivers by a member of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma.
- Details on the United Trails regional trails network for biking, running and walking.
- Urban and river ecology.
- Mini tours of City Utilities' Water Filtration Plant.