Nat’l group looking to conserve Ashley River

  • Friday, November 1, 2013

File/Cantu/Journal Scene A group of county officials, including the Parks and Recreation Commission, toured the new Ashley River Park site for the first time in February. The park plans include several kayak launch points from pre-existing docks, such as the one pictured.

American Rivers, a national river conservation organization, has expressed interest in naming the Ashley River one of its “blue trails.”

The interest comes hand-in-hand with a request from the Dorchester County Conservation Commission to the County Council asking for a conservation easement on the Ashley River Park property.

A conservation easement would require the current and any future owners of the property to protect the land according to the easement specifications.

Conservation Commission Chairman Mike Dawson presented the request to the council at its Oct. 7 meeting.

At the request of Councilman Jay Byars, Dawson presented the information again to the Parks and Recreation Commission at their Oct. 9 meeting.

“The park is protected now, yes, but it’s only as protected as this or any future council wants it,” Dawson said. “We’re asking for an easement to avoid the possibility of selling and subdividing the property in order to protect the river corridor.”

Blue trails – which promote the conservation of rivers through recreational use – are often associated with conservation easements because a river must be healthy in order for it to be a part of the program.

“There’s a good opportunity to do this on the Ashley River,” said Gerrit Jobsis, the southeast regional director at American Rivers. “We recognize that the Ashley is a great resource, but it’s under some threat.”

The blue trail program started in South Carolina with the Congaree River, and has since grown to be a nationwide initiative.

Although not official yet, if the Ashley River becomes a blue trail it will be the fourth in the state and the eighth in the country.

Just as a hiking trail is designed to facilitate recreation in green spaces, the blue trails promote recreation on rivers.

Jobsis said if the Ashley River becomes a blue trail, American Rivers will help promote its recreation by publicizing public access points, identifying local history surrounding the river, and creating a map that would provide information on the river’s features and how to paddle it.

“This would really bring visibility to the Ashley River,” said Dawson.

But before that process starts, Jobsis said American Rivers will be reaching out to the community, including local government officials and members of the public, to get their opinions.

So far, he said the feedback has been positive: “I’m excited about the Ashley. I’m really happy with the enthusiasm I’ve seen when talking with folks in the area. It’s going to be a great project and I look forward to working on this.”

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