Aug. 10—ATHENS, Ga. — Last week, Georgia River Network (GRN) presented the organization's 2022 Water Trail Hero Award to the Flint River Water Trail during the Georgia Governor's Tourism Conference in Athens. Carolyn McKinley from Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce accepted the award on behalf of the entire water trail group.
The Flint River Water Trail is part of a statewide network of Georgia water trails that are showcased on the Georgia River Guide, a free mobile app that offers outdoor enthusiasts easy access to information on 37 water trails encompassing more than 2,500 river miles.
The award recognized the Flint River Water Trail and project managers from Meriwether County for their impressive collaboration with representatives from 18 riverfront counties and the Flint Riverkeeper, according to a press release from GRN. Together, they worked to establish access points and outdoor recreation opportunities that will lead to economic development and river advocacy opportunities all along the Flint River.
"We know that when paddlers and anglers come to a water trail they stop for gas and snacks, sometimes camp or get a hotel room, and visit local restaurants and shops," said Andrea White, community programs coordinator at Georgia River Network. "A water trail is a great way to leverage a community's natural assets to provide recreational and economic opportunities. The collaboration happening on the Flint River is really exciting because it will simultaneously spur tourism opportunities and also introduce people to river issues and engage them in the protection of their local waterways."
A water trail is defined as the water equivalent to a hiking trail with clear access points, similar to a trailhead, where swimmers, boaters, paddlers and anglers can legally and safely access the trail. Water trails are encouraged to follow best practices including sponsorship by a local entity or partnership, multiple safe public access points within easy paddling distance of each other, and proper signage or kiosks at all river access points.
White presented the award to McKinley on the second day of the conference during Georgia River Network's showing of "Okefenokee Destiny," a 14-minute PBS EcoSense for Living documentary about the mine that's threatening the future of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. This showing at Ciné theater is the first of a series of showings that GRN will present across the state between now and the end of the year. Information about the showings is accessible here: https://garivers.org/protectokefenokee/.
Past recipients of the Georgia Water Trail Hero Award include Georgia Power Company, Georgia DNR and Representative Lynn Smith, among others.
More details about the Georgia River Guide mobile app can be found on the Georgia River Network website: https://garivers.org/georgiariverguide/.