Water Trail Toolbox: Establishing Access
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

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Over the years local boaters commonly create informal sites to get onto and off the waterway. Some of them make ideal accesses for the trail while others might be dangerous, awkwardly placed, and unevenly spaced for general public use. You probably will have to develop some new launch sites and parking areas, and you may have to create some campsites.

Be Prepared

Thoroughly prepare everyone in your organization who is going to approach a private landowner or public agency about obtaining permission to use a site or purchasing property for the trail. They should be able to clearly articulate the vision of the water trail, usage projections, facility plans, maintenance services, liability issues, and why the inclusion of the site or sites is critical to the overall effectiveness of the trail.

Acquire Access Permission

Obtain legal advice when making access agreements with private individuals, public agencies, businesses, or organizations. Agreements typically include handshake agreements that are renewed annually, leases that last a few or several years, and permanent deeded easements. [Learn more]

Purchase Sites

Obtain legal assistance when making outright purchases of property, purchases of easements, or donations of land. Most water trail organizations prefer to obtain access permission and spend their limited funds on facilities and maintenance. Occasionally, however, they have to raise funds to buy property for critical launch sites or camping areas.

Follow Through

Establish a regular schedule to visit and talk with landowners and public lands managers. Look for creative ways to acknowledge their contributions at an annual event with stewardship volunteers. Pass on letters of thanks from visitors. Chat with them periodically on the telephone. Listen to their concerns and resolve problems as soon as possible.


Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network - Comments or Questions: Call: 1-800-YOUR-BAY