North Port hopes paddlers will take to local canals

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NORTH PORT, Fla. - The city of North Port is looking to highlight something they say is an underused resource: miles of canals.

Parks and Recreation officials say they have a plan to put in amenities at some city parks to start building a ‘blueway’ for kayakers and canoers. It would create more amenities for residents and perhaps bring in some much needed tourism.

The city has more than 80 miles of canals, with several parks located on them. That's a huge plus for those who want access to the water.

"It's nice that you can get out in weather like this and see a lot of the wildlife." Roger Newton says he just moved to North Port, but is not sure where he's allowed to get in the water. "A lot of people like to kayak, but they don't know where to go. Maybe if we came up with a map or guidance of where to go and places that are set up, making it easier to do it."

That's exactly what Dorothy St. Pierre and the city's Parks and Recreation staff are trying to come up. So far they've pin pointed four city parks; a six mile trek. "The city of North Port is very excited about opening up the waterway and getting some feedback from the residents as well as local users."

Just as with rowing in Sarasota or the Legacy Trail in Venice, North Port could use the blueway system for themselves and for bringing in others. "It would definitely bring in a lot of ecotourism to not just North Port, but the whole county. It brings some attention to the resources we have here in the area," says St. Pierre.

The numbers indicate that upwards of 80% of those who visit Florida want to experience the outdoors.

The city is trying to finalize their first phase of the plan, investing $400,000 for improvements and amenities.

For instance, Roger says the ramp at Dallas White Park could use some help. "There are a lot of older people in this area that come down in the winter to do activities. This could be kind of dangerous for them."

Some areas are overgrown and there will need to be some way to allow paddlers to get around the flood gates found throughout the city. "There are definitely some challenges, and that is what the city is working on, to provide access," says St.Pierre.

City leaders say after the initial phase they could look at expanding the program. "I think a lot more people would get into it. See how nice it is and enjoy the outdoors," says Roger.

North Port says they want public input. There is a meeting Thursday night, and they're hoping residents come out with their ideas. The presentation of the plan and community input will take place at the Morgan Family Community Center (6207 West Price Boulevard) from 6pm-8pm.