For immediate release - May 26, 2005
TAVARES — Lake County's effort to establish the largest blueways program in the state is well on its way as officials with the Lake County Department of Environmental Services mailed off Wednesday the permit for the new recreational trails.
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 blueways designation includes approvals from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard.
A blueway is similar to a hiking trail. Physical and geo-positioned markers guide trail users through the waterways. An ideal blueway trail also includes an abundance of scenery and wildlife as well as easy canoe access. Perhaps most importantly, each blueways designation requires the ability to respond to waterborne emergency search and rescue situations, which the Lake County Sheriff's Office has had the ability to do for some time.
The idea of developing a blueways program was introduced to the Lake County Board of County Commissioners in January. Since then, employees with the Department of Environmental Services have been working diligently to complete the permitting process.
"We worked with the State Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and coordinated with the municipalities to identify locations for the blueways markers," said Nikki Foster, Special Projects Administrator for Environmental Services. "We had to ride the trails to make sure there was adequate access and to see what the situation was for canoeists and kayakers."
Included in the permit are eight proposed routes. The trails are within the areas of the St. Johns River, Golden Triangle, Palatlakaha Basin and Oklawaha Basin. The eight trails equal about 130 total miles. Each area will present different opportunities for users.
"Our blueways are not all going to be these remote experiences," said Blanche Hardy, Director of Environmental Services. "This program will have an urban component of trails along the shorelines in Mount Dora, Tavares and other vibrant downtown communities."
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 pamphlet with maps that will outline each trail including other surrounding amenities.
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