“Portage Parades” to focus on more recreational access to Connecticut River

Local News

GREENFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The Connecticut River Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Club, American Whitewater, and other recreation partners are joining forces to bring attention to the need for more recreational access to the Connecticut River.

Two Portage Paddle Parades will be held in July, on 7/10 in Turners Falls and 7/17 in Bellows Falls, Vermont, in an effort to share information about needed upgrades to portage routes for paddlers around the Bellows Falls and Turners Falls Dams, and recreation investments that would benefit local communities. The events will start with a brief gathering outdoors to learn more about the issues, followed by a public parade along proposed shorter and improved portage routes. 

According to a news release sent to 22News from the Connecticut River Conservancy, hydroelectric companies are required to accommodate for recreation as part of their operating licenses. They say the facilities at Turners Falls and Bellows Falls create obstacles that impact river access to the public.

“Excessively long portages around these dams and poorly maintained put-ins are examples of the lack of investment the companies are making in publicly accessible recreation. Our local economies would be enhanced with functional and effective access to rivers. The river offers incredible opportunities for boating, fishing, swimming, paddling, bird watching, and quiet contemplation,” says Kristen Sykes, AMC Director of Southern New England Conservation Projects and Partnerships.

In addition to local river users, the Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail (CRPT) brings paddlers and river recreationists from across New England to the area who contribute to the local economy by frequenting outdoor outfitters, restaurants, hotels, B&B’s, and more as they paddle the length of the longest river in New England. The CRPT is a unique, water-based trail that includes a series of primitive campsites and river access points spanning 400+ miles of the Connecticut River through NH, VT, MA and CT.

Turners Falls portage parade route. Image courtesy Connecticut River Conservancy

Great River Hydro owns the Wilder, Bellows Falls, and Vernon Dams in Vermont and New Hampshire. FirstLight Power owns Turners Falls Dam and Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage in Massachusetts. Together, these five hydro facilities impact more than 175 miles of the Connecticut River. Both companies applied for renewed operating licenses for these five facilities in December that, once issued, will be in place and dictate the terms of how these hydro facilities will operate for the next 30-50 years. 

You can learn more about the portage parade and other Connecticut River Conservancy events on their website.

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