NEW YORK (AP) _ Parks officials hoping to promote public access to one of the city's least-used recreational zones — its waterways — have created its first formal network of kayak and canoe launches.
Dubbed the New York City Water Trail, the 28 small boat ramps are sprinkled along the shorelines of all five boroughs, in places as remote as marshlands in Queens and as bustling as the six piers along the Hudson River in Manhattan.
Many of the ramps aren't new. Urban kayakers have quietly been using them below-the-radar for years, sometimes without city permission.
But over the past year the Department of Parks and Recreation put its stamp of approval on what had been an informal network, cleaned up some launching areas and added a few new ramps and amenities.
The city and the nonprofit group Going Coastal are also distributing a map of 28 spots where people can legally canoe and kayak. Going Coastal founder Barbara LaRocco said the organization had 10,000 waterproof copies made. Two additional ramps are listed on the interactive, online version of the map, which also includes latitude and longitude coordinates for boaters navigating by global positioning system.
"It's really cool. It's a whole other experience when you are out on the water looking back at the shoreline," said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski, an avid kayaker who has paddled in Turkey and Alaska.
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe celebrated the establishment of the trail Thursday at a ceremony at a launch in Brooklyn's Red Hook section, within easy rowing distance of the Statue of Liberty.
Paddlers need to buy a $15 annual launch permit to use the ramps, which are open from April 1 to Dec. 1, dawn to dusk.
Some ramps offer entry to waters with spectacular views of the city skyline. Others are majestic in a different way: Canoers using the ramp located next to a wastewater treatment plant in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood can see junkyards and warehouses as they travel toward the East River.
Local boaters said they are thrilled.
"We were told all of our lives, 'Don't go in the river. Don't touch it. Stay away.' Now, we have the city on board. It's a big change," said Owen Foote, a member of the Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club, whose primary launch is on an industrial canal in Brooklyn.
He said many of the waters around the city are still polluted, despite big improvements in recent years in water quality, and suggested that promoting public access might help raise awareness about continuing problems.
On the Net:
New York City Water Trail: http://www.nycgovparks.org/sub—things—to—do/facilities/kayak
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.