This summer has been a watershed for the French Broad River; after years of hard work, the Western North Carolina Alliance opened the French Broad River Paddle Trail, which now connects more than 140 miles of the river through campsites. Through my work on this project as the French Broad Riverkeeper, I have spent countless hours on the river, paddling the entire French Broad River and frequenting the river most weekends to tube, canoe, kayak, fish and swim.
In my time on the water, I’ve been amazed to see the number of people out enjoying what has become one of the region's finest assets
How did the French Broad River go from being, in the words of writer Wilma Dykeman, “too thick to drink, too thin to plow,” into a popular recreation destination? It's no accident. Forty years ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act. This act implemented environmental safeguards with the goal of making all of our nation's waters safe for fishing and swimming. Though we have not yet met that goal, we have come a long way. Whereas in 1970, prior to the Clean Water Act, people said you could smell the French Broad before you saw it, today the French Broad supports a thriving paddling community that attracts thousands of people each year, both locally and from out of state, that are a key part of the local economy.
The French Broad River is a great example that good economic policy is good environmental policy 100 percent of the time. So when you step into the ballot box this year, vote for the environment and you will simultaneously cast a vote for the economy.
— Hartwell Carson
French Broad Riverkeeper