ODNR designates Portage River Water Trail as one of the state’s water trails

OAK HARBOR – Whether exploring the shoreline of Oak Harbor, paddling through Woodville, or strolling to downtown Port Clinton, the new Portage River Water Trail offers plenty of opportunities for water enthusiasts. nature to explore the river at a relaxed pace.

State and local officials gathered Tuesday at the Interurban Overlook in Oak Harbor to celebrate the official designation of the trail as one of 17 water trails in the state.

Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, delivered the official designation, with event-goers also encouraged to grab a paddle and float down the river in a kayak.

“The beauty of the water trail is that it traces the route for you,” Mertz said on the Oak Harbor site, one of the trail’s access points.

The water trail will help boost local economies

Mertz said the trail will also help promote the economy of all towns and cities along the Portage River Highway, a 36-mile stretch that crosses Wood, Ottawa and Sandusky counties.

She said since the water trail system was launched in Ohio in 2006, the number of canoe and kayak registrations has increased dramatically, with more than 300,000 canoes and kayaks registered statewide.

Ottawa County Commissioner Mark Coppeler said the state is expected to launch the trail, which includes 12 public access points in Ottawa, Sandusky and Wood counties, in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the launch, Coppeler said.

Oak Harbor Mayor Quinton Babcock said the footpath plays a role in improvements to the village’s waterfront, as well as the ODNR’s focus on individual safety of navigation along the waterways navigable.

Over 1,000 miles in Ohio designated as water trails

“So they’re not going down into somebody’s backyard. They’re accessing the river in a safe place,” Babcock said.

According to the ODNR, this brings the total number of kilometers of designated water trails to more than 1,000.

State and local officials hope Tuesday's official designation of the Portage River Water Trail will boost ecotourism and economic development in towns and villages along the Portage River through the use of canoes and kayaks.

Efforts to obtain a “state water trail” designation for the Portage River began in 2019.

With the help of the Council of Governments of the Toledo Metropolitan Area, stakeholders in the Portage River watershed have formed a partnership to work collaboratively on the project.

The partnership included the City of Port Clinton, Friends of the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Oak Harbor Development Group, ODNR, Ohio Lake Erie Shores and Islands, Ohio Sea Grant, Ottawa County Commissioners, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Village of Elmore, Village of Oak Harbor, Village of Pemberville, Village of Woodville, and Wood County Park District.

Paddlers, bird watchers, anglers and nature enthusiasts can connect with local parks and businesses using one of 12 access points on the Portage River Water Trail between Pemberville and Port Clinton .

Ottawa County Commissioner Mark Stahl said everyone came together for the water trail project and did what was right for the area.

Trail can help attract more workers to the area

Stahl said the trail provides additional recreational activities and helps promote the area, a key when all businesses are looking for workers.

“We try to get people to come and work here,” Stahl said.

Aimee Arent, executive director of Friends of Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, said there are two US Fish and Wildlife Service access points along the Portage River Trail in the agency’s Little Portage and Marinewood units.

Other access points in Sandusky and Ottawa counties include Woodville-Trail Marker Park, Harry Witty Memorial Park and Elmore-Riverbend Park in Elmore, Ottawa County Fairgrounds, Wildlife Areas from Little Portage State and Portage River and Lake Erie beach access from Port Clinton.

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