This award is given in recognition of successful efforts to influence public policy relating to trail planning, trail protection, trail development, or maintenance.
Archie Thompson has been advocating for blueways, or paddling trails, in South Carolina for over 20 years.
It was in the late 1990's when Archie, a newbie at paddling, began speaking with a local outfitter regarding the concept of developing a countywide system of water trails.From that initial concept, Archie began to develop partnerships with local and state government. After advocating throughout Berkeley County and its bordering jurisdictions, Archie's concept began take shape.
Today, the Berkeley County Blueways paddling trail system identifies over 23 trails and over 175 miles of total water course. First started as a mere vision of a few individuals such as Archie, the trail system has now expanded to include partnerships with the Berkeley Soil and Water Conservation District, Berkeley County Government, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Santee Cooper and the US Forest Service.
This project has put the sleepy, rural county of Berkeley on the map as one of South Carolina's premier tourism destinations for outdoor paddling. At the present time, Archie is serving as the volunteer coordinator for Berkeley County Blueways system as well as serving as the coordinator for the county's “adopt a landing/island program.”
The Berkeley County Blueways project was only the beginning for Archie. Archie soon began advocating at the state level for developing an organization for promoting paddle trails across South Carolina. Today, in partnership with the Palmetto Conservation Foundation and other paddle trail organizations, Archie manages a facebook page, “PaddleSC,” which highlights trail events, trail safety, proposed and existing trail organizations and other water trail news. Paddle SC's goal is to create a statewide clearinghouse for water trails across the state of South Carolina.
Archie's desire for creating and promoting water trails in South Carolina doesn't stop with Berkeley County. Archie is actively involved in developing a “Lowcountry Regional” blueways master plan. The project incorporates all three counties that surround Charleston, SC. In partnership with the Berkeley, Dorchester and Charleston Council of Governments, the National Park Service, US Forest Service and other state/local agencies, the project seeks to develop a master plan for connecting, promoting and funding water trails throughout lowcountry.
Besides advocating for trails at both regional and state levels, Archie is also actively involved in projects within his own community. Recently opened to the public, Archie assisted partners in developing the “Swamp Fox 50 Mile Paddle and Camp Trail.” This trail hosts several Boy Scout groups every year and serves as a partial requirement for several scout merit badges.
We, the National Park Service, have worked with Archie on several water trail projects across South Carolina. As one can infer from reading through this commendation, Archie's desire and love for paddle trails is overwhelming. He is truly one of the strongest advocates for water trails in South Carolina, if not the entire southeast.