For immediate release - Jan. 19, 2005
TAVARES — A new program introduced to the Lake County Board of County Commissioners last week may become one of the largest networks of designated waterway trails in the state.
The Lake County Community Blueways Project aims to identify scenic waterways that feature nearby amenities for canoeists and kayakers. A nationwide program, the permitting process for blueway designations includes approvals from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard.
“My goal, even if it is fleeting, is to say Lake County has more permitted freshwater blueways than any other county in Florida,” said Blanche Hardy, Director of the Lake County Department of Environmental Services. “What we are doing essentially is a comprehensive, robust program. As far as I know, nobody else in Central Florida is attempting to do that.”
A blueway is similar to a hiking trail. Physical and geo-positioned markers guide trail users through the waterways. An ideal blueway also includes an abundance of scenery and wildlife as well as easy canoe access. Perhaps most importantly, each blueway designation requires the ability to respond to waterborne emergency search and rescue situations, which Lake County has had the ability to do for some time.
Four areas where potential blueways have been identified are the St. Johns River, Golden Triangle area, and the Oklawaha and Palatlakaha river basins. Program officials are proposing at least two to three blueway opportunities in each zone. Each zone will present different opportunities for users.
“Our blueways are not all going to be these remote experiences,” Hardy said. “This program will have an urban component of trails along the shorelines in Mount Dora, Tavares and other vibrant downtown communities.”
A new Web page, www.lakecountyfl.gov/lake_county_blueways/, launched today allowing the public to view the proposed waterway trails. Citizens are encouraged to comment or suggest existing amenities along a trail by e-mailing email@example.com.
In addition to the benefit to residents, the nationally-known blueways program can attract visiting paddlers to an area. Responsible for marketing the program, the Lake County Department of Economic Development and Tourism will develop a series of pamphlets and maps that will outline each trail including other surrounding amenities, such as launch areas, waterfront restaurants, sites of historic significance, hiking trails, annual events near the water trail and parks.
Office: (352) 343-9609; Cell: (352) 455-0445