The process began this month to designate the South Skunk River in Story County as a state water trail. The project is a coordinated effort among Story County Conservation, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources River Programs, and local paddlers. The designation process is locally-based and offers multiple opportunities for public participation.
Initial public input meetings will be held Tuesday, April 17 and Thursday, April 19 at 7 p.m. at the Story County Conservation Center (56461 180th Street), northeast of Ames. Thursday’s meeting is geared towards landowners adjacent to the Skunk River, although everyone is welcome to attend. Your voice is needed. No pre-registration is required.
Many paddlers, anglers and outdoors enthusiasts in Story County already enjoy the Skunk River and use existing access points and public land. Designation as a state water trail would elevate the status of the river for recreation, increase eligibility for future funding of improvements, and provide an important link to stream and watershed restoration efforts in other areas of the state.
Iowa’s state water trails plan, “Connecting People with Water and Resources” was developed in 2010 by the Iowa DNR. In this plan, the Story County section of the Skunk River was identified for consideration as a state water trail, specifically for day trip recreational use.
Guided floats down the Skunk River will be conducted for the public in the fall throughout Story County. Specific float dates will be announced in early August.
“These public floats will be a great chance for participants to assess existing river launches, on-water signage, and streambank conditions,” John Wenck, Iowa DNR Water Trails Coordinator said. “We hope that people will take advantage of the group effort to explore parts of the river they may not be familiar with and add their thoughts to the discussion about designation.”
The project also includes technical assessment of the existing access points and signage for river-based amenities. The assessment will guide water trail developers toward future enhancements, including expanding water trail use by the public. Plans include on-water and access signage for the two dams on the Skunk River near Ames.
Ames landscape architect Mimi Wagner is leading the designation effort for the IDNR and hopes to conclude the designation and signage effort by early spring 2013.
Keep up to date with the project on its blog site (www.designatetheskunk.org) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/designatetheskunkriverwatertrail). Questions about the project can be directed to Wagner (wagner.mimiLA@gmail.com) or SCC Special Projects Ranger Carol Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org).