NATIONAL COAST TRAIL ASSOCIATION

5124 N.E. 34th Avenue - Portland, OR - 97211 / 503-335-3876 / www.coasttrails.org

News Release

For Release: Monday, July 19th

Media Contacts: Al LePage, Executive Director, National Coast Trail Association - 503-335-3876

Lori Fisher, Executive Director, Lake Champlain Committee, 802-658-1414

"Atlantic to Great Lakes!" Event Continues On the Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail
Hiker
turns kayaker as he leaves land for water to paddle south along Lake Champlain, the seventh important link of "Great Northeast Trail," all the way to the New York Canal System

A special event, the "Atlantic to Great Lakes!" Hike and Paddle continues on Sunday, August 29th from the boat launch near the Ethan Allen Homestead on the Winooski River in Burlington, Vermont to access the Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail.  Al LePage of Portland, Oregon plans to first hike some 400 miles and then paddle another 300 miles to eventually reach Oswego, New York and Lake Ontario by mid-September. He will be traveling along the "Great Northeast Trail" (GNET) - an envisioned trail system connecting proposed and existing land and water-based trails across New England, literally stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The event's focus is to promote and publicize this unique trail concept, and work cooperatively with trail organizations, government agencies, and others for public awareness about the many trails and connections that make it possible. The event is a personal journey, and although it is not a guided hike or paddle for the general public, LePage will be giving some presentations for the public during his trip. He is founder and executive director of the National Coast Trail Association, and continues his way south along a section of the Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail, the seventh significant link in his journey that will evenutually take him to the terminus of the Champlain Canal at Whitehall, New York.  A public presentation will be given by LePage in Burlington, Vermont on Sunday evening, August 29th.  Please contact Ben Rose at 802-244-7037, ext. 12, for further details.  The "Atlantic to Great Lakes!" event is officially registered as a National Trails Day 2004 event with the American Hiking Society.

"Time to take to the water," says Al LePage, executive director of the National Coast Trail Association.  "I like the name 'paddlers' trail' because its a bit more precise and descriptive than just calling it a water trail.  But whatever you call it, its a real opportunity to make a personal connection with nature and everything else that goes on out there on the water, whether good or bad.  Besides recreation, a water trail also provides a unique opportunity for education as well.  Perhaps it even helps to inspire people to take better care of what they've got, to be good stewards of what's out there, and how being good stewards of what's on the land fits together with what's in the water as well."

In the summer of 1998, the Lake Champlain Committee co-sponsored and end-to-end paddle of the lake with the Green Mountain Club.  That nine-day adventure involving eighteen paddlers helped generate the Committee's interest in providing low-impact access to the lake in a way that reinforced our water quality protection goals.  The vision of the Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail began to take shape in the early 1990's. Kevin Rose, expert paddler and founder of the Lake Champlain Kayak Club, formally conceived the idea of a water trail on the lake.  The Lake Champlain Committee embraced the trail concept as a way to provide a permanent corridor on the lake for low-impact recreation.  Kevin Rose's generous spirit of collaboration and adventure fostered the Committee's involvement and laid the groundwork for the present-day trail.  Several instituitions and agencies were instrumental in making the trail a reality.  The National Park Service, the New York State Natural Heritage Trust, and especially the Lake Champlain Basin Program  provided critical early support that enabled the seed of an idea to flourish and grow.  The Champlain Kayak Club was activetly involved in trail development, signage and stewardship from the very beginning.  Canoe Imports and The Ski Rack/Downhill Edge provided key financial support and positive input, and the advice and guidance from the Maine Island Trail Association and the Green Mountain Club also helped to make the dream into a reality.

The "Great Northest Trail" ("GNET") is envisioned as a continuous recreational 400-mile hiking and 300-mile paddling trail from the Atlantic to the shores of Lake Ontario through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. Significant portions of this trail concept already exist, other major sections are already proposed or being established, and only a few minor linkages needed to be developed to make it complete. The trail would begin in Portland, Maine traveling the existing urban trail system there and extended along the proposed Mountain Division Trail to Fryeburg, Maine. It would then connect into New Hampshire and continue north on the existing trails of the White Mountain National Forest to connect with the Appalachian Trail around Carter Notch and continue across the state to reach the border at Hanover, New Hampshire into Vermont. Where the Appalachian Trail meets the Long Trail near Killington, Vermont, the route proceeds north until reaching the Winooski River, and then follows the proposed path of the Cross-Vermont Trail into Burlington, hiking north along the shore of Lake Champlain to eventually reach the historic homestead of Ethan Allen. The nearby public boat launch begins the paddling segment of the trail, first where the Winooski River enters the lake, next along the Lake Champlain Paddlers' Trail south to access the Champlain Canal, then the Erie Canal, and finally the Oswego Canal into Lake Ontario.

LePage is apparently the first person to ever attempt, in one continuous trip, the envisioned 700-mile Great Northeast Trail. He's also apparently the first person ever to have hiked America's entire 1800-mile West Coast Trail (not to be confused with the Pacific Crest Trail or Canada's 45-mile West Coast Trail), doing so on three separate occasions. In 1988 he hiked the 400-mile Oregon Coast Trail in about 1 month, in 1992 the 200-mile Washington Coast Trail section, and in 1996 he tackled the 1,200-mile length of the California Coastal Trail in 3 and a half months. If he completes the Great Northeast Trail as planned, he will have completed a total of about 2,500 miles of the overall 10,000-mile National Coast Trail vision. LePage, age 50, was born about twenty miles east of Boston in Framingham, Massachusetts, and grew up and lived in the area until he headed west as a young man to reside in the Pacific Northwest, his primary residence being Portland, Oregon.

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The National Coast Trail Association, founded in 1994, is a non-profit trail organization whose vision is the National Coast Trail, a 10,000-mile plus interconnected land and water-based trail system around the entire United States. Our mission is "Keeping the Coast for Everyone" through advocacy, education, and action for trails, public access and coastal preservation. Our program includes trail development, education, and conservation. Our focus is the development of the West Coast Trail, comprised of the Washington, Oregon and California Coastal Trails. The "Atlantic to the Great Lakes!" event is a project to promote and publicize the Great Northeast Trail, field research and photograph it, and initiate cooperative relationships with trail organizations, government agencies, and others to develop and maintain relevant trail segments.

The Lake Champlain Committee (LCC) is the only citizens' group dedicated solely to protecting the natural resources and beauty of Lake Champlain and its surrounding watershed in the states of New York and Vermont and the province of Quebec. Through advocacy, education and scientific research, we take action towards water quality, access, sustainable land use, and an ecosystem approach to lake management.  Visit www.lakechamplaincommittee.org for further information.

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