Wild & Scenic Rivers Are a Shared Responsibility
Rivers, the connective tissue of our spectacular outdoors, unite the many communities that rely on the flowing waters for sustenance and recreation. Rivers are at once local, regional, and national resources that shape America’s landscapes. The nuts and bolts of “protecting rivers” is multi-layered. National, regional, and local stakeholders each have vested interests, legal requirements, and different priorities that must be balanced.
The National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic Rivers System protects critically important rivers with the best available tools and science. October 2, 2018, marked the 50th anniversary of the National Trails and Wild and Scenic Rivers acts, and it is a wonderful time to celebrate places like the Musconetcong River.
In 2006, the National Park Service (NPS) designated portions of the Musconetcong River in northern New Jersey, not far from New York City, as wild and scenic to help ensure the river’s remarkable array of natural and cultural resources would be protected for future generations. The Musconetcong is central to the lives of millions of residents across many municipalities, and the designation of the river as a Partnership Wild and Scenic River also enabled local municipalities to coordinate on its conservation.
The Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) emerged as a leader, helping to determine and implement the Musconetcong River management plan, bringing stakeholders together to discuss key issues, facilitating coordination between organizations and individuals, and leading projects. In 2017, MWA embarked on a project to create Musconetcong Island Park – a permanent and safe public access point at a popular fishing and swimming hole.
Funding from the National Park Foundation (NPF), and a variety of other sources, provided financial support for construction, environmental assessments, legal reviews, and more, enabled this project to move forward. While this funding covered many conservation needs related to the physicality of the river, it was also pertinent that local communities feel invested and become stewards of this resource. For the Musconetcong to thrive, it needs local communities to be involved and life-long protectors of the river. Moreover, such efforts must continue beyond construction timelines and well into the river’s future.
As part of its mission to support the national parks and partner community, NPF is exploring how to help park partners sustainably mobilize volunteers and service corps and increase financial support for national parks and programs. Called Love Your Park, this new network connects diverse partners and individuals to coordinate activities that support parks.
Selected as a Love Your Park pilot project, MWA received NPF funding to promote projects on the river, engage community volunteers, and connect with similar organizations to share best practices and lessons learned.
Alan Hunt, MWA executive director noted that, “NPF’s support helped us address ‘soft costs’ not covered by construction budgets to ensure that the Musconetcong is conserved and enjoyed in the long-term.”
As construction plans continue, MWA is actively recruiting volunteers and is working with local youth organizations to develop long-term stewards for the river. While there is a long way to go, the future is bright for this beloved waterway with a host of partners committed to its management and long-term vitality.
You’ll be hearing more about NPF’s Love Your Park network in the coming year. All are invited to engage with the network and are welcome to reach out with any questions or suggestions. Be sure to visit MWA’s website to learn more about the great work they are doing for the Musconetcong River and local communities. Then #FindYourPark/#EncuentraTuParque along this thriving river or one in your own community!