Friday, November 9, 2012

MS Gulf Coast Trails Touted

     There was a lot of the talk about trails at the 13th annual Coastal Development Strategies Conference, held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Nov. 7-8.  Here is a little of what was said.
     Two blueways will open soon in the Gulf Islands National Seashore (GINS), the largest national seashore park in the U.S.  This Saturday (Nov. 10) the Davis Bayou Blueway at the national park's Mississippi Unit in Ocean Springs, MS will open.  Beginning at 10 a.m. rangers will lead a paddle, expected to last less than two hours, of one or more of the three short loops that begin and end at the boat launch in the park.  The event is free.  Bring your own kayak or get there early and score one of the few free kayaks that will be there.  For more information call: 228-230-4100. or visit
     The following Saturday (Nov. 17) a paddling trail running east about five miles from the canoe launch at the Perdido Key Area will open with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. and a brief paddle.  Bring your own boat; no public boats will be available.  For more info call 850-934-2600 or visit the website.
     (There is a longer discussion of these two trails in a previous posting)
     Sticking with the topic of blueways, Paul Nettles, an experienced kayaker now consulting with the Heritage Trails Partnership, a non-profit promoting trails of all kinds in Mississippi, said the only gap in a long distance kayak trail that runs from the Dismal Swamp in Virgina, around the Florida peninsula to along the Texas coast is along the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.  He suggests modeling a saltwater kayak trail along the coasts of LA, MS and AL after the detailed site and down loadable maps at at the site of the Southeast Coast Saltwater Paddling Trail.  "We are on the edge of something big here," said the former owner of two kayak tour business in the Biloxi area.
     Back on land, GINS superintendent Dan Brown said the roads in the Davis Bayou Unit have become crowded with runners, cyclists and walkers competing for space with car and camper traffic.  The roads are two-lane and have no paved shoulders, or in some cases, no shoulders at all.  Brown said starting next year the park will begin to deal with the problem and work to get "the runners and bicyclists separated from the cars."   Plans will most likely include widening the road with shoulders, he said.
     Fans of the Long Leaf Trace, a 41-mile rails-to-trails conversion from Hattiesburg to Prentiss, MS will be glad to learn that the trail will be extended two miles into Hattiesburg.  James Moore, a founder of the trail said it will take about six to nine months to start construction but that the ten-foot wide trail which will reach the downtown, now home to an emerging restaurant and entertainmment district, should be finished soon after construction begins.
     The Wolf River, north of Long Beach, MS, has been popular with paddlers for decades.  But access to the most scenic part of the river, the 24 miles between Silver Run and Cable Bridge is limited because of almost no public right-of-way access at the bridges and private ownership of most of the rest of the land fronting the stream.  And there is a security issue for parked cars too.  But a member of the Wolf River Conservation Society, said the group is working on developing a public access to the river.  There are no details now but look for something to happen before paddling season next year.
     And a shout-out to Jim Foster with whom I shared a delightful lunch between sessions at the conference.  Jim is president of the Heritage Trails Partnership, and dedicated to their main goal of establishing a border to border trail along the Mississippi Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama, about 110 miles.  Some of the talk was just a couple of old geezers gassing about bicycling, a passion we share.  But after our talk it was easy to see Jim's focus is on establishing the Mississippi Coastal Heritage Trail, largely a trail that will appeal to cyclists but with opportunities for walking, paddling and equestrian activities.  Plans for the trail and its progress will be covered in depth here in later postings.

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