Cromford’s Canal could be turned in to a wildlife corridor with boat trips returning to the historic waterways.
These are just some of the ideas being mooted as part of a major project to develop the 17-mile stretch from Cromford to Langley Mill.
Consultant engineers WS Atkins has been drafted in to look at the future of waterway by Cromford Canal Partnership, set up to make the canal more attractive to visitors.
The firm is looking at four options – to carry on maintaining the canal for walkers and horse riders, to turn it in to a nature reserve, to partially restore the waterways or carry out a full restoration scheme.
Patrick Morriss, chairman of the Friends of Cromford Canal, said full restoration – which would see the whole canal navigable by boat – was the group’s preferred option.
He added: “This is a man-made canal with all is historic structures so unless there is a fairly active regime of maintenance it will fall in to disrepair.”
Mr Morriss said the full restoration of the canal would go hand-in-hand with creating a wildlife corridor and a trip boat, running on the Ambergate to Cromford section, would help fund the project.
He added: “If we make the most of modern technology the boat will not intrude on the environment.
“It would give people another way to view the natural environment, enjoy a trip on the boat and take people right to the middle of the site of special scientific interest.”
Derbyshire County Council has paid for the report by WS Atkins to be carried out.
A spokeswoman for the council said the report would establish the current condition of the canal and look at the costs, benefits and risks of a number of development options.
She added: “The findings are due to be considered at the next meeting of the Cromford Canal Partnership in March.”
The Friends of Cromford Canal, also referred to as the FCC or simply ‘the Friends’, was formed in 2002 with the aim of restoring the canal, inclusive of the branches to Pinxton and Lea Wood.
The group’s statement to the charity commission states the FCC’s aim as: ‘The restoration, reconstruction, preservation and maintenance of the Cromford Canal, its associated buildings, towing path, structures and craft and the conservation of its natural character as a navigable inland waterway system for the benefit of the public.’
The Friends is managed by a committee of Trustees and general members, who currently meet twelve times a year in their work to actively promote the canal and its restoration.