New group formed to connect local paddlers

By JENNIFER COHRON
Posted 9/8/18

Local residents interested in increasing recreation opportunities on Walker County's waterways will be gathering at Tallulah Brewing Company on Monday night.The meeting, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., …

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New group formed to connect local paddlers

Posted

Local residents interested in increasing recreation opportunities on Walker County's waterways will be gathering at Tallulah Brewing Company on Monday night.

The meeting, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., will serve as the kick-off for the Walker County chapter of the Alabama Scenic River Trail (ASRT).

"We want to provide a space for people to network and build relationships," said Elyse Peters, the Walker County Health Action Partnership's (HAP) health partnership specialist for community impact.

Monday's meeting will provide a gathering place for people who are new to the area and want to learn about recreation opportunities or who are new to outdoor activities such as kayaking and canoeing. 

Though there has been a resurgence in interest in such activities in recent years, Walker County does not yet have the paddling equivalent of the Blackwater Cycling Club, a group of local cyclists who get together to ride on a regular basis.

"It's so important to get people connected to one another. A lot of people are too afraid to get out on the water on their own, but when you start going with other people, it demystifies it. We want to have this opportunity for like-minded individuals to communicate," said Jenny Short, who serves as chairman of HAP's Livable Communities Priorities Group.

ASRT encompasses 5,000 miles of accessible waterways that extend from the northeastern corner of the state to the southwest. Several of Walker County's most popular waterways, including Blackwater Creek, the Black Warrior River and the Mulberry and Sipsey forks, were added to the trail in 2015.

HAP has been working in conjunction with local leaders and various funding sources for several years to improve access to area waterways. 

Six access points are either being created or improved as part of HAP's ongoing Walker County Waterways Project, which will connect 31 miles of navigable streams by early next year. 

"Now that we have this infrastructure, how do we want to use it?" Peters said.

Suggesting answers to that question will be one of the goals of the new ASRT chapter, which will be eligible to apply for start-up funds for some projects through ASRT.

In recent years, HAP has hosted a float trip on the Mulberry Fork and supported an annual river race on the Sipsey Fork. Peters said ASRT chapter members could help organize similar activities for Blackwater Creek or other waterways.

"The social aspect is so important to the experience. We want to connect people so that they can learn from each other and have fun," Peters said.