Wichita For those who can get to it, the Arkansas River offers some of the finest fishing, bird-watching, floating and picnicking anywhere in the state.
Now, a coalition of conservation groups and local governments are working with a state agency to create more access points along 120 miles of the river in south-central Kansas.
"We're trying to open up the river through this entire region," said Larry Hoetmer of the Wichita Park and Recreation Department. "It's an asset we've always had that's never been utilized because people couldn't get to it."
Although the bed of the Arkansas is public property, most of the land along its banks is privately owned - and landowners historically have been reluctant to grant permission to cut access points through their property.
About two years ago, 10 interested governments and conservation groups joined to form the Arkansas River Corridor Access Plan.
The plan's goal is to offer public access about every five miles from the Reno-Rice county line northwest of Hutchinson to near Oxford on the Sumner-Cowley county line.
Some access points would be on land already owned by a city or county. Others would be purchased or leased from landowners.
Plans call for two kinds of access points. Some will have a small parking lot and boat ramp. Others may have restrooms, playgrounds, picnic areas and camping facilities.
"A lot of people might think it's just a canoeist thing, but the river has a lot more to offer," said Ben Huie of the Arkansas River Coalition, a conservation group that routinely leads floats down the river.
"We also want to provide places where people can just walk down, put out a lawn chair and enjoy watching nature along the river and a sunset. They don't even have to get on the river to enjoy it."
Some people have concerns about the project.
Steve Swaffer, Kansas Farm Bureau director of natural resources, said landowners bordering the Arkansas have worries about trespassers and vandalism.
"You always have the minority of folks who can't obey the laws," Swaffer said. "Personally, I think it'll be important that things be patrolled and property lines well marked."
He has special concerns about the latter because the definition of what's public - between high-water marks - along navigable streams is vague.
Most involved think such problems can be overcome and that the project will benefit more than just those who use the river.