TUSCARAWAS — The Tuscarawas River has become Ohio’s 15th state water trail, a designation which will help encourage recreational use of the waterway.
Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, came to the Snyder’s Landing Boat Launch in Tuscarawas on Friday to read a proclamation making the designation.
Following that, she and Craig Butler, executive director of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, took a short kayak trip on the river.
“It’s pretty exciting anytime we get to designate a water trail, and the Tuscarawas is the 15th,” Mertz said. “Especially in these times, people are getting out there and paddling. Having a water trail helps them know what to expect. It’s about safety and fun.
“You can’t have fun if you’re not safe. So what we want to do is give people an opportunity to know, here’s where you go to put your kayak in the water. Here’s what to expect along the way. Here’s how difficult this particular water is to paddle.
“So I think it will really encourage people to feel good, safe and comfortable but still adventurous when they get out there on the water.”
With the designation, a brochure has been put together that shows the entire route, access points, all the portage points and hazards. Along the way, signs are posted to warn of hazards and let boaters know about places to get out of the water.
Mertz applauded the district for its leadership in bringing area communities together to make the designation possible.
Communities involved include Lawrence Township, Dover, New Philadelphia, Tuscarawas, Gnadenhutten and Coshocton, as well as the Tuscarawas County Park Department.
Butler said it was a great collaboration that has been in the works since 2015.
“It marks a pretty significant commitment by a lot of people to give access to the Tuscarawas River so the public can enjoy it,” he said. “I think it’s fabulous that we’re the 15th water trail designation in the state.”
State Rep. Brett Hillyer, R-Uhrichsville, was also on hand for the event.
“Obviously the river is a huge asset to the community and provides a lot of opportunities for people to get out and enjoy nature and see a lot of what we have to offer here,” he said.
Tuscarawas Mayor Dana Moore said the boat landing has been a great asset for his village.
“Originally, there were a lot of naysayers who said there would be no usage, but the fact is that it’s incredible,” he said. “It’s much more than we had ever anticipated, with canoers, kayakers and also fishermen bringing bass boats down here and fishing this section of the river.”
Usage of the landing on the weekends is incredible, he said.
Designation of the river as a state water trail will advertise the recreational possibilities even further and let everyone enjoy it, Moore said.
The Tuscarawas River Water Trail is 112.5 miles long and goes through Summit, Stark, Tuscarawas and Coshocton counties. At Coshocton, it joins the Muskingum River Water Trail. The two trails combined are about 200 miles in length.