Our lakes and streams throughout the river corridor have long played a central role in our water-based and land–based recreational activities. Residents of the region enjoy both the many recreational opportunities available such as swimming, boating, and fishing that are essential to our quality of life as well as the economic benefits of increased tax revenue, business, and employment opportunities that are generated by tourism and recreation visits that are linked to our water resources. The upper Merrimack River Region has some of the best river reaches in the state for recreational canoeing and kayaking. During the summer months, it is not unusual to see canoeing and kayaking activity in every section of the upper Merrimack River with paddlers able to navigate both upstream and down at ease. Numerous secluded sandy beaches and sand bars along the upper Merrimack River allow for relaxing respites, picnic lunches, and refreshing swims to those who come upon these sites (see Figure 3). During seasonal high-flow periods there are some stretches of river, particularly in the northern reaches, that are highly regarded for whitewater kayaking. The upper Merrimack River boasts some of the best fishing spots in the state for both cold water and warm water fisheries. The region also contains several large lakes and ponds that attract both seasonal and year-round lake boating and fishing enthusiasts. The demand and value of waterfront homes and cottages have steadily increased over the years as this central region of the state becomes more attractive as the state population continues to shift northward. The future value and availability of our recreation opportunities associated with our water resources will depend greatly on how well the water quality and the natural conditions along the river corridor and shoreline areas can be preserved and protected for future generations.
A recent economic study conducted in NH estimated that approximately $400 million or 26% of summer spending in New Hampshire is associated with fishing, swimming and boating activity. The study also found that about half to two-thirds of visitors to a particular water body would decrease or cease their visiting days if they perceived a decline in water quality or purity at a particular site. Statewide, this reduction in visiting days would result in about $51 million in lost sales, $18 million in lost income and more than 800 lost jobs associated with fishing, swimming and boating (Nordstom 2007). GOAL 6: The upper Merrimack River watershed supports recreation opportunities that connect people to the river while conserving and maintaining its natural resources.
OBJECTIVE: RC-1 – By October 2008, all public access locations will be evaluated as to their usage, effectiveness, and appropriateness and whether their current conditions should be improved to promote greater access and reduce potential environmental impacts to the river.
- Conduct a visual survey to identify and map all public access locations and inventory the type and extent of recreational uses within the river corridor.
- Identify and assess the critical viewsheds that support or encourage land-based activities within the river corridor.
- Identify areas that are experiencing environmental damage from overuse or inappropriate access points.
- Identify areas where additional stabilization and other protection measures are needed or where additional parking and public facilities may be needed.
- Identify areas where public access may be lacking and/or where new public access points may be appropriate for boat launches, swimming, and fishing.
- Identify/evaluate how flow management operations at existing dams affect both upstream and downstream recreational uses.
OBJECTIVE: RC-2 – By end of 2008, a long-range recreation plan will be developed that provides an inventory of existing recreational opportunities and outlines goals and actions to address future needs and possibilities for land-based and water related recreation activities, and identifies funding sources.
- Develop a general estimate of the economic benefits and revenue generated by the various water dependent recreational activities within the watershed.
- Identify measures that can improve the recreational usage and economic benefits within the region.
- Identify measures and structural needs to reduce any existing or future environmental impact that may be caused by recreational activities. Incorporate findings and measures into the overall watershed restoration plan with a draft scheduled to be completed by mid-2009.
- Create and distribute brochure-type materials and/or signage at access points to promote “Leave No Trace” principles and address barriers/objectives to following these principles.
- Develop an online virtual “tour” of the River.