Communities that thrive economically and socially and have the capacity to take action on environmental issues are cornerstones of healthy watersheds. Citizens throughout the Basin are working to create and maintain a culture of clean water. Their efforts to improve access to natural and cultural resources have led to a stronger stewardship ethic and a greater sense of place. The work of municipalities, conservation districts, and local watershed organizations to improve water quality and habitat has also made them better prepared for climate change and flood hazards.
Ample recreational opportunities continue to foster stewardship of the Basin’s natural and cultural heritage.
People connect to the land and waters of the Lake Champlain Basin in a variety of ways. Swimming, fishing, and boating continue to be popular in all seasons. Residents and visitors flock to the Lake’s beaches in summer. Anglers fish favorite local spots and participate in fishing tournaments and derbies year-round. State agencies increase interest in fishing, and access to it, by hosting free fishing days. In the spring of 2018, BoatUS magazine affirmed what many local residents know when it recognized Lake Champlain as one of eight premier freshwater boating destinations in the United States.
Communities throughout the watershed have recognized the importance of recreation to their identity and their local economies. Watershed groups, recreation organizations, museums, historical associations, and municipalities have implemented projects to foster the appreciation of the Basin’s history and to enhance recreation opportunities.
In recent years, a number of designated recreation paths on both land and water have been established or enhanced. The Western New England Greenway, a multi-state bike route that links New York City and Montreal, traverses Vermont from the Massachusetts state line to the border with Québec, was established in 2015. Work continues on the North Country National Scenic Trail, a 4,600-mile footpath that begins in Crown Point, New York, and meanders through seven states, ending at Lake Sakakawea State Park in North Dakota. An effort is underway to extend the trail eastward to the Long Trail in Vermont.
The Island Line provides a spectacular way for cyclists to experience Lake Champlain. Photo: LCBPThe improvement and creation of new water trails and access points has helped get more people out on rivers and lakes (Figure 15). The Lamoille River Paddlers Trail in Vermont was established in 2015, with the goal of providing new opportunities for low-impact water-based recreation. Managers of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, which extends from Old Forge, New York, to Fort Kent, Maine, continually work to adapt to constantly changing river conditions and provide the best experience for paddlers. In Québec, a paddlers trail on the Pike River was expanded with a number of new sites and upgrades.
New water trails and projects that improve access to rivers have enhanced recreational opportunities for paddlers of all types. Photo: Scott Staples.
Many other important connections have been made between Basin communities and their waterways. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department completed the reconstruction of the John Guilmette Fishing Access Area in South Hero. The Community Sailing Center on the Burlington waterfront opened a new facility that will enhance camp and school programs that include important environmental education components. In Plattsburgh, New York, a new municipal marina opened in 2015.
Cultural heritage tourism continues to have a growing impact on the Champlain Valley economy. A 2017 study released by Fort Ticonderoga found that guest spending at the 18th century fort in New York generated $12.1 million for the local economy. While military history is still often the focus of heritage tourism, several regional efforts have recognized the importance of diverse cultural components that have shaped the making of the two nations in which the Basin sits. In 2016, the Vermont Department of Marketing and Tourism published the African American Heritage Guide. Developed in collaboration with the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, the guide directs visitors to 22 sites that interpret African American heritage in Vermont; thirteen stops on the trail are in the Lake Champlain Basin. In 2017, communities in New York kicked off the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage with lectures, programs, and special events.
A Fort Ticonderoga craftsman threads the region’s history into visitors’ lives. Photo: LCBP.
In the heart of the Champlain Valley, the Lake Champlain Bridge Quest links historic sites on the New York and Vermont shores of the Lake. Visitors search for clues at the sites to answer seven riddles in order to collect a commemorative coin. The Bridge Quest is a collaborative effort of the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, Chimney Point State Historic Site, Crown Point State Historic Site, Lake Champlain Visitors Center, and Crown Point State Campground. This bi-state effort to offer a cohesive perspective on the region’s history encourages visitors to walk the sites and enjoy the scenic beauty, all while learning about the area’s history and archaeology.