Respect the water, Respect the locals


I live in a place with a lot of open water. In our state, if you can get your boat to the water, without trespassing, you can paddle freely. The issue frequently is how to get to the water. There are many public landings for access to the lakes and rivers we cherish. Access to these landings is under threat. The largest threat is not the property owners on the lake, it is the users of the launch / landing site. It is up to the paddle community to combat this! We need to learn to think about these places as locations to be cherished and protected the same way we cherish and protect the waters we grant us access to. Our most effective tool is respect. Simple way to deploy respect to protect our access to the water include:

Respect the neighbors
Noise is one offensive aspect that we have the most control over.
Turn down or off the audio in your car or truck.
Turn off the car or truck when it is not moving.
Speak softly, shouted questions and responses are not relaxing.
No Profanity! Assume kids are playing in the yard.
Keep the dog on a lease. If it poops, pick up the poop and take it home with you.

Respect your fellow paddlers / Share the landing

Take as little time unloading as possible.   
    Before you leave home, pack the boat as much as possible. 
    Stuff that is in the boat is unlikely to be left behind at the landing.
Make room for the next folks coming or going.
    Once your car is loaded park it & walk back to the lake to pick up  trash. 
 Offer to help others carry their boats to and from the landing.

Respect the rules

 If the sign says "No Parking" do not park there.
     Assume they will tow your car rather that ticket it.
     These signs help prevent people from getting stuck in the mud or sand.
     These signs make sure that emergency veichles can get in and out .
     These signs prevent paddlers from parking homeowners and other paddlers in.
 If the parking lot is full do not assume you can park on the road, check for signs.
      Avoid parking on both sides of the road as it can obstruct traffic.
      Do not park in front of a mail box or trail intersection.
      If there is already a car parked on the road park behind or in front if it.  

Respect the environment.
The lack of a public restroom is not permission use the bushes as one.
Take trash home with you.
Do not clean fish at the boat landing.
Do not picnic or swim at the landing.
Take a minute to make sure you do not spread invasive species by brushing them off the boat prior to driving away.
Driving 65 mph will not blow them all off the boat. It will blow spread them into pristine locations.

Local residents play a large role in our access to lakes and rivers. They can affect how easily you can access the water. They can insist that “no parking” signs be put up on the roads leading to the landing. They can insist that hours that the parking lot is accessible be as few as possible. They can insist that local law enforcement write tickets and call towing companies to remove troublesome cars and trucks. These folks are uaually retired and have plenty of time to lobby municiple boards to retrict access to the water
They do not want to take these steps but a steady stream of inconsiderate people preventing them from being able to get into or out of their driveways will provoke them. A steady stream of trash blowing into their yards will provoke them. A steady stream of loud music will provoke them. Town and County boards care more about local tax payers than they do about people who come and go leaving only trash behind. Don’t be the last straw that pushes them into activly opposing your public access to the water.


Mostly all reasonable stuff, except among the “I pay my taxes and can do what I want on public land” crowd. When selfishness trumps common sense, everyone loses.

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so many people have zero manners and respect for others. They are selfish unmannered pigs.


In Rhode Island, I wouldn’t say that access is under threat. To the contrary, we actually have pretty good network of access points across the state. The state constitution guarantees access to the ocean, and there has been an effort to maintain coastal rights of way. At many of these access points parking is the limiting factor, and that is how coastal communities control access.

The state also has an extensive network of boat ramps to provide fresh and salt water access. The focus of these boat ramps is primarily on motor boats and fishing, but paddle sports benefits as well.

Having said that, we have lost a couple of launch sites recently.

  • One was the take-out for a popular river that was on private property and is now posted. The owner was sick of dealing with trash from fishermen and was concerned about liability. Fortunately, there is a state boat ramp a little further downstream.

  • Another is a boat ramp at a state campground. Access is now limited to folks camping at the campground.

  • Another is a coastal boat ramp where parking is now limited to trucks with boat trailers.

Paddle sports competes for the use of access points with other popular recreational users like fishing and motor boating. These users seem to have more political clout with the folks who make the decisions, and sometimes we lose. I have also seen it with dam releases where the flow is sometimes gaged more to the benefit of fishermen than boaters.

That is not to say that we don’t have our share of slobs in RI, but I think fishermen are the biggest culprits in that respect.

I was recently out on the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts, and the situation is a little different there due to the volume of users. There have been problems with trash, drinking and parking, but in this case, tubers and picnickers are the biggest culprits. I think boaters act pretty responsibly.