The Conestoga River is one of Lancaster County’s most scenic waterways. The river flows for over 60 miles, joining the Susquehanna River below the Safe Harbor dam. The official Water Trail flows from Brownstown, Sylvan B. Fisher Park, below 772, to Safe Harbor. All 32 miles of the Water Trail are popular for canoeing, kayaking, tubing, and fishing.
The Conestoga River Club has recently been named the Conestoga Water Trail local managers. We have been asked, “what does that mean?” To answer that, first let’s talk about what a water trail is. PaDCNR describes a water trail as “a recreational corridor between specific locations and provide safe access to Pennsylvania waterways.” Simply put, it is a path that can be followed on the water, using canoes, kayaks, small powered boats or even inner tubes as is appropriate. There are 29 recognized water trails in the state and you can find a listing of them here: https://pfbc.pa.gov/WaterTrail.htm
So, what is a water trail manger? The State water trail program is overseen by DCNR, PFBC, and PEC. Each one of these organizations has a different role in their oversight, but relies on local partners and managers to act as stewards of the various water trails. Typically, this is done by a local nonprofit, but can be any agency or local organization that has the support of other watershed stakeholders. Once appointed those managers are responsible for improving and increasing access points to the water trail, access maintenance, conservation education and programs, mapping and signage, and trail safety/navigability.
Our water trail has been “orphaned” for some time, and has been without active local management. This is reflected in the poor condition of most of the access points along the Conestoga River. The real benefit of being named local managers is that we now have the legitimacy to revitalize our water trail. We are eligible for funding and grants to make easier to use safer access points and boat launches, and receive full state governmental support for our efforts.