HARTFORD -- The Connecticut River was designated Thursday as the country's first "National Blueway" in recognition of many organizations' efforts over the last half century to conserve the river and promote recreational uses.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the river watershed has come a long way from several decades ago when it was regarded as a landscaped sewer system. He said the designation could help elevate the river as a priority for federal spending and attract further investment from outside groups.

Salazar signed the designation at a riverside park in Hartford. He said the proposal was endorsed by the governors of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire. The watershed, from Canada to Long Island Sound, includes mountain peaks, floodplain forests and the homes of 2.4 million people. -- AP

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