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Posted: January 31, 2013 6:17 p.m.

Turning Yellow blue

Georgia River Network to help Yellow River

The Yellow River is a big step closer to becoming a coveted Blue Trail.

A Blue Trail not only enables those in canoes, kayak and other paddle boats to take recreational strolls on the water way, but also draws paddling events and brings an economic boost to the surrounding area.

Already, the Yellow River has brought the Porterdale Yak Club to the city, drawing in those who want to paddle the river. If it receives a Blue Trail certification, it will bring paddle sports athletes, who have seen a 5 percent growth in their sport since 2008, in which kayaking has an estimated 12.5 million participants, a 63 percent increase from 2000-2007 according to Gwyneth Moody of the Georgia River Network.

The Georgia River Network obtained a Park Service grant to establish two water trails this year, and the Yellow River was selected as one of the two recipients. The Georgia River Network will work with the Yellow River Water Trail Committee to help push things along.

"It’s a very big professional boost for all of us to make sure we don’t just focus on the part of Porterdale, but to make sure we cover our bases," said Tonya Bechtler of the YRWT committee.

At the committee’s next meeting, a representative from every county on the YRWT will be on hand to see where the process goes from this point, such as getting the revamped website online and promoting the benefits of the river.

Bechtler is a long-time paddler, who never used the Yellow River because of what she thought were poor conditions, but after looking into it, found out that it wasn’t polluted, but just had heavy amounts of sediment. Since then, she has regularly enjoyed the local river and helped to establish it as a great place to paddle throughout the state.

"We’re trying to overcome that people don’t believe it’s navigable and show people it’s very clean," Bechtler said.

The YRWT committee has helped provide water testing through Porterdale’s Police Explorer post, trash pickup through volunteer excursions and a Hidden Gem Paddle. Around 100 people came to the YRWT for the Hidden Gem Paddle, and around 400 more have been exposed to the river over the last two years. That’s a number that could significantly pick up if it is named a Blue Trail.

The designation could possibly place the YRWT on the list for Paddle Georgia, the state’s biggest paddling event, and will also be a destination for paddlers and some of the reported $39.7 billion in state/local tax revenue the outdoor industry provides each year, according to Moody.

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