DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s arguably part of the biggest waterpark in Texas: the Texas Parks and Wildlife “Paddling Trails,” which has more than 3,700 miles of rivers and streams, along with 3,300 miles of shoreline on the Gulf Coast.  And now, it’s open to more of the public in North Texas.

On Tuesday the Trinity River in Dallas and Paddle Point Creek in Rowlett joined other paddling trails being dedicated in four North Texas Counties.

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The day was marked in different ways…a sign unveiled in Dallas.   A ribbon cut in Rowlett.  But for these and five other North Texas communities it means 57-miles of new waterways for ‘Paddlin’ Madeline Home’ as the old song goes.

“I find it a piece of solitude,” Keith Michaelis, a canoe enthusiast of only six months told CBS 11.  “I’m really surprised to see how much nature is packed into the cityscape, and so it’s really a delight to discover wildlife in its natural habitat.”

For Dallas the trail is doubly important, because it fulfills another step in the promise of the Trinity River Project. “You can see the work that is starting to happen now,” says outgoing city councilman Steve Salazar, a lifelong resident of Dallas.  “You can see the bridges going up (the signature Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge), you see the Audubon Center.
And now you’re going to see the recreation components that the voters have wanted for many years.”  All the way back to 1998, when Dallas voters first approved the concept of a Trinity River Project.  Though it’s seemingly developed in fits and starts, people can make a living on the river.

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Charles Allen of Trinity River Expeditions says upgrades are helping Dallasites see the Trinity in a new light.  “The river’s bad reputation has kept people away from it for a long, long time, but that’s really helped protect the wildlife, the archaeological sites and historic sites and all the other good things about the river.”  Allen continues, “I would like for more people to come down to the Trinity River and learn more about our natural heritage.   I’d like people to have a sense of ownership about the river.  Because this IS our river, and it IS our natural heritage.”

Phil Montgomery, a former TP&W commissioner, was instrumental in getting the Dallas Paddling Trail and was on hand at Tuesday’s dedication.  “Over a million people in the state engage in paddling sports of some kind,” he tells CBS 11, “and once you learn it here close to home you can go all over the state canoeing and kayaking.”

In keeping with its reputation for delays, Tuesday’s windy weather was too bad to actually launch canoes on the Trinity.  Salazar just shrugs it off as being part of the river.  “Sometimes Nature cooperates and sometimes it doesn’t.  We’re not here to conquer Nature, we just want to cohabitate.”   And ultimately get more of Dallas to wet its toes in the Trinity.

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Trinity Expeditions can be contacted at www.canoedallas.com  or by phone at 214.941.1757.   Paddling Trails information from Texas Parks and Wildlife can be found at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/paddlingtrails/