Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Connecticut that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Establishing the Connecticut River as a National Blueway and enhancing recreational access and restoring natural resources along the Naugatuck River are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Dannel Malloy and the state of Connecticut, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Connecticut and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Connecticut highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Over the course of the Connecticut River's 410-mile journey from the Canadian border to Long Island Sound, the river ties together four New England states — Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The river is also the centerpiece of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge that encompasses the entire watershed, including several federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers in Connecticut. The river flows through Hartford where public agencies have made significant strides to reconnect residents to the river through new riverside parks, a new science center, recreational trails, and a highly successful rowing program for urban youth.
Despite the success in developing varied recreational opportunities on the Connecticut River, there is still a need for more access points for water-based recreation and to draw citizens to the river. The goal is to continue to support local efforts to enhance river access. The state envisions new launch sites for canoes and kayaks; more trails along the river and its major tributaries (including the Farmington and Salmon rivers); added camping areas; hosting public events; and making further investments in open space near the river.
The state also is working in Hartford to expand the city park system and join it to the Connecticut River. Its centerpiece, the GreenWalk, is a one-mile chain of parks and plazas connecting the gold-domed Capitol in Bushnell Park to the Connecticut River waterfront.
Western Connecticut's Naugatuck River encompasses a 310-square-mile watershed that includes former heavily industrialized urban areas, including the city of Waterbury. During the last decade, the river has undergone a rebirth with millions of dollars invested to improve water quality, restore habitat, and enhance recreational opportunities. The state has focused on upgrading treatment plants — including a $100 million project in Waterbury — and removing dams and other structures.
Associated with the above efforts, the state has embarked on a comprehensive program to revitalize major urban areas along the river. The state envisions a multi-sector partnership with the National Park Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Trout Unlimited, and the Greater Valley Chamber of Commerce to help shape a comprehensive corridor initiative to enhance recreational access, increase fishing opportunities, restore and improve natural resources, and stimulate economic development along this blueway.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Connecticut for example, the Department could help the state and communities to restore and enhance the Naugatuck River by completing the Naugatuck River Greenway, creating new public access to the river, and opening fish passages on the river. Along the Connecticut River, the Department can provide technical and financial support to increase access to the river and designate a portion of the river in Connecticut as a National Blueway.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.