Guiding Principles

Partnerships - Cooperating and Sharing
A water trail is the product of partnerships among an array of governmental and non-governmental entities. With volunteers as the key supporters and advocates of the trail, partnerships are developed between government land managing agencies, private property owners, government regulatory agencies, user groups, and local businesses. Together, these groups can create and maintain a successful water trail with broad-based and long-term support.

Stewardship - Leaving No Trace!
Water trails promote minimum-impact practices that ensure a sustainable future for the waterways and adjacent lands. Water trails embrace the Leave No Trace Code of Outdoor Ethics that promotes responsible use and enjoyment of the outdoors. Trail users who are educated to respect the quality of water, land, vegetation and wildlife habitats along the trail are good caretakers. When users learn the principles of protection and restoration on the trail, they may be inclined abide by these principles elsewhere.

Volunteerism - Experiencing the Joy of Involvement
Most water trails are created, promoted, and maintained through the energy and dedication of local citizens who work individually and through "friend" organizations. Community involvement and volunteerism are the keys to developing a sense of trail stewardship, promoting the trail within the community, encouraging respect for the trail's natural and cultural heritage and ensuring that local governments support the trail's existence. Through love of place, and of good times associated with it, volunteers bring hard work and celebration to the water trail community.

Education - Learning by Experience
Through comprehensive trail guides, signage, public outreach, and informative classes, water trail organizations encourage awareness of the natural, cultural, and historical attributes of the trail. Serving as outdoor classrooms, water trails teach through experience.

Conservation - Protecting our Natural Heritage
Water trail activities support the conservation of the aquatic ecosystem and contiguous lands. Trail builders and activists are a respected constituency advocating for resource protection and participating in resource restoration. The water trail community is a watchdog in prevention of environmentally harmful acts, striving to sustain the natural integrity of the trail and preserve the quality of the trail experience.

Community Vitality - Connecting People and Places
A water trail is a network of recreational and educational opportunities. Hiking trails, bikeways, greenways, museums, historic sites, parks and preserves are connected by water trails, creating frontiers for exploration, discovery and enrichment. These connections build a sense of place and bind citizens in a love for their community. Water trails link families who grow together through work and play on the trail.

Diversity - Providing Opportunities for All
Water trails are non-exclusive. They benefit the able-bodied and the disabled, the young and the old, the disadvantaged and the advantaged. Water trails welcome all those that want to respectfully enjoy and appreciate the trail experience. Through shared work and play, tolerance and understanding are fostered. Broad-based participation in trail activities is achieved through affirmative outreach and recruitment.

Wellness and Wellbeing - Caring for Self and Others
Water trails are wholesome; fresh air and exercise bring fitness and health to trail users. While actively promoting these benefits, water trail users need reliable and accurate safety information and training to responsibly enjoy and appreciate water trails. Safe use requires a commitment to safe design and sound management. Awareness, education and skills training in health and safety promote the wellness and wellbeing of all water trail users.