From Melpine Landing on the Rancocas Creek in Westampton, John Anderson deftly paddles his kayak across the water's silvery surface.

"It's different every day you come out here," says Anderson, 54, who's on the creek several times a week.

"Because of the tide, it's always changing."

The indefatigable leader of a grassroots effort to have about 60 miles of the north and south branches of the Rancocas designated as a national water trail - he likes the term "Blueway" - Anderson says he can feel momentum.

He's not only talking about the brisk outgoing tide that could carry his kayak the 13 miles west to the Delaware River.

There's also rising local support for the water trail proposal he's been working on since 2012 (, or Rancocas Pathways on Facebook).

"The creek is a common resource we can all enjoy," Anderson says.

"It's a gem."

Last summer, dozens of young volunteers, including about 20 local Boy Scouts, helped remove trash and cut brush at Melpine, a long-inaccessible landing/launch site in Westampton.

"A troop from Burlington is proposing an Eagle Scout project to put up signage along the trail," says Melissa Rozecki, office manager of the Garden State Council, Boy Scouts of America, in Westampton.

And a number of municipal governments and local organizations have offered official letters of support for the proposal.

"John invited me to come and check it out, so I got myself a kayak and fell in love with the creek," says Abe Lopez, deputy mayor of Westampton Township, which endorsed the water trail in March.

"I knew the creek was there," Lopez adds. "But I didn't know about the landings, and the history."

Beginning in the late 1600s - nearly three centuries before the construction of the NJ Turnpike and I-295 - the Rancocas was "the major highway" through Burlington County, historian Paul W. Schopp says.

The creek, which has headwaters in the Pinelands and two main branches, was used to transport timber, sand, agricultural products, and other goods and raw materials from Burlington County to the Delaware and on to Philadelphia.

"It was a vital, vital part" of the regional economy, Schopp, assistant director of the South Jersey Culture and History Center at Stockton University, says, adding that commercial traffic on the creek ended by the early 20th century.

"Anything positive that brings attention to the Rancocas, and that highlights its history and natural beauty, is great," he adds.

The water trail designation - the Rancocas deserves it, in my view - would not necessitate construction of facilities.

Instead, it would facilitate promotion of existing public landings, such as the municipal access points in Mount Holly, Lumberton, and Hainesport, and help connect other access points along the creek, including Burlington County's Long Branch Park and the Rancocas State Park.

A state designation is required before the National Park Service will determine whether the proposal meets its water trail criteria; while Anderson says New Jersey is considering the request, state officials were unavailable Friday.

"The trail would definitely be a plus," says Lavonne Bebler Johnson, a development committee member of the Friends of the private, nonprofit Rancocas Nature Center in Westampton.

"It would bring more people to the center," says Johnson, who lives in Willingboro. "A total win-win. And in John Anderson, you have a leader who knows the creek inside and out."

Indeed: Anderson, a businessman and a registered nurse, grew up in the farmhouse now used by the center. He's been kayaking since he was a kid.

"They used to say back in the day that the creek had curative powers," he says.

"You get out there and it's peaceful. The phones aren't ringing, the computers aren't bubbling, and you're in a bubble from the everyday chaos that surrounds us. It kind of rejuvenates you."

267-815-0975 @inqkriordan