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Paddling and Water Trails

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The study estimated that in 2008, paddlers in North Carolina spent $270,075 on local water trail trips and $947,800 on non-local trips.

arrow Download the complete study and survey information (pdf 5.7 mb)

 

Paddle Tourism Study in North Carolina


Photo of canoe on wide river

CANOEING On the French Broad River - Photo FROM Scott Ogletree


The North Carolina State Trails Program conducted the Paddle Tourism Study as part of an ongoing effort to enhance and encourage paddling experiences in North Carolina. The study was conducted from June to September 2008, and finds that paddling is popular in rivers, streams and lakes across the state, and that North Carolina is a destination for paddlers from surrounding states.

The majority of participants in this survey (70%) believe that paddling is a viable form of economic development for North Carolina.

 

Improving the water trail eperience

Perhaps the most interesting response was "What can we do to improve a visitor's paddling experience in North Carolina?" This open-ended survey question gave respondents the opportunity to make comments and suggestions related to improving paddling experiences in North Carolina.

The most frequent topic that emerged, cited by nearly 450 respondents, was related to improving and increasing the number of paddle trails and access areas for existing paddle trails. Respondents indicated a variety of concerns and suggestions:

Others commented on the need for more planning resources for paddling trips. Many respondents suggested a comprehensive, state operated website where paddle trail maps and information can be downloaded and printed. Many respondents felt it would be beneficial to create a well-developed central website where all types of agencies involved in paddling can disseminate information about where to paddle, conditions, events, and news. Examples of planning and public information needs included:

On natural resource issues, respondents voiced concern for the need to control erosion, restrict development, stop deforestation, and to reduce impact in general. Other respondents expressed support for:

Characteristics of Paddlers

The study revealed a wide range of information about paddlers from demographics to level of paddling experience.

Implication: The age range and income level of respondents suggests that significant portions of the paddling population are working professionals with discretionary income. Local economies can benefit from these characteristics of paddlers by promoting other activities alongside paddling for visitors to spend money on. These activities might include local festivals and events, shopping for local handmade arts and crafts, and/or natural and cultural heritage experiences.

Implication: Recreational paddlers have likely adopted paddling as a hobby and enjoy participating in it for fun, relaxation, exercise, and spending leisure time with friends. Understanding that the majority of North Carolina’s paddlers are going out in groups for recreational purposes is vital to the development of legal and safe paddle access areas and trails. This information can also be used by the NC State Trails Program as well as local outfitters and non-profit paddle organizations to expand and promote paddling activities throughout the state.

Implication: People are spending money to purchase paddle craft, predominantly kayaks, and prefer owning to renting. This information is particularly useful to North Carolina’s paddle outfitters to see that, as paddling gains popularity people make the decision to purchase expensive paddle craft. It is also important to the NC State Trails Program and NC State Parks to understand trends in paddling so that they may be able to better serve the paddling population by planning access areas that cater to kayakers, expanding paddle craft rentals to include more kayaks, and to create kayaking programs and opportunities.

Implication: The State Trails Program should make an effort to acquire additional land for the creation of land trails and camping areas when considering the development of paddle trails. Local governments, municipalities, non-profits/friends of organizations, paddle clubs and paddle outfitters should create opportunities for paddlers taking day trips to experience local flora and fauna. These opportunities can be promoted through a comprehensive, state run website, websites run by local organizations, and/or through printed trail maps.

Implication: The State Trails Program could implement a paddle trail website that provides information on legal and safe paddle access areas and paddle trails that comply with state paddle access and trail standards. This website could also include links to various paddle clubs and outfitters across the state where these organizations can showcase the variety of lodging and trip activities their local areas offer.

Economic Impact

Implication: This economic data suggests that paddler recreation and tourism have an impact on local economies as well as the state economy. Paddling’s impact on the North Carolina economy is only beginning to be understood. Additional research should be conducted to ascertain the impact of outfitters to gain information that world provide hard evidence of their contribution to the local and state economies.

Implication: Increasing opportunities for camping and lodging, special events, dining, and further developing paddle trails can expand paddler spending in local communities. North Carolina communities have a wealth of cultural resources to offer visitors. Examples of these resources include local hand made crafts, music, festivals, and entertainment. Paddling and paddle trails should be connected to local communities so that visitors can explore and enjoy the many other assets available.

Implication: It would be beneficial for the State Trails Program to collaborate with paddle clubs statewide to disseminate information, and to promote paddling.

Funding improved and increased paddle access

Implication: The State Trails Program should consider the willingness of many paddlers to support the development and management of paddle access areas and trails. This additional funding could be made available to governmental agencies and non-profit organizations that are willing to partner in this effort to plan, build, and manage legal and safe paddle access areas and trails.

Implication: Paddle access and trail standards should be created and implemented to guide the planning, development and management of paddle access areas and trails encompassing all of North Carolina’s diverse geographical regions.

Priorities of the State Trails Program should include:

• Working with governmental agencies and non-profit organizations throughout North Carolina to encourage and assist with paddle trail planning, development and management.
• Instituting standards for paddle trail access areas and paddle trails that can be implemented by governmental agencies, non-profit organizations that are planning or managing paddle trails to accommodate the needs of these paddlers.
• Considering the willingness of many paddlers to support the development and management of paddle access areas and trails. This additional funding could be made available to governmental agencies and non-profit organizations that are willing to partner in this effort to plan, build and manage legal and safe paddle access areas and trails.

Future marketing initiatives should include:

• Implementing a paddle trail website that provides information on legal and safe paddle access areas and paddle trails.
• Encouraging and promoting the positive environmental, social and economic values of paddle trails to governmental agencies and non-profit organizations.

 

arrow Download the complete study and survey information (pdf 5.7 mb)

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