Summer 2011 Banner


Withlacoochee State Trail



Welcome to the Summer 2011 Edition of Connections!


In This Issue of Connections:

Withlacoochee State Trail Now a National Recreation Trail

Cheers for Withlacoochee Volunteers

Bikefest on Blackwater Heritage State Trail

Ride-Roll-Run Relay Wrap-up

Cross Florida Greenway Loses a Friend

National Trails DayŽ in Tallahassee

A Fun Day for Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail Volunteers

Paddlers Poker Run Fundraiser

Florida As Seen From a Kayak

Tour de Parks Fun Ride on The Legacy Trail

Keys100 Race on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail

Paddle Florida Joins in Keys Centennial Celebration





Withlacoochee State Trail Designated As National Recreation Trail   

-Florida's longest, state rail-trail recognized for its local and regional significance-  


The Withlacoochee State Trail, managed by the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails, 

has joined an elite list of more than 1,100 trails across the United States that are

considered exemplary for their local and regional significance, based on criteNRT logoria

established by the National Recreation Trails (NRT) program.

National Recreation Trails are components of the National

Trails System and recognize existing trails that connect people to recreational resources and improve their quality of life. The 2011 NRT trail designations were officially announced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar on June 2, in conjunction with National Trails DayŽ, which is sponsored annually by the American Hiking Society. 


In 2010, nearly 300,000 trail users enjoyed the great recreational opportunities offered by this 46-mile, paved rail-trail which runs through Citrus, Hernando and Pasco counties, from Citrus Springs to six miles north of Dade City. As it traverses small towns, ranches and six distinct natural communities, the WST offers rich opportunities for viewing wildlife, a perfect venue for long-distance biking, running and walking, in addition to proximity to other recreational resources such as the Withlacoochee State Forest's unpaved trails, the Withlacoochee River (South) Canoe Trail and Fort Cooper State Park.


The Trail's neighboring communities clearly value its presence as the counties and towns have developed trail-related features and businesses, as well as side trails that access the WST. Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee (RTW), a 400-member, citizen support organization, has worked to enhance and raise funds for the WST for more than 16 years. Honoring the history of this former rail corridor, the group has restored the vintage whistle posts and mileage markers and a 1925 caboose that now serves as a landmark for the Inverness Trailhead. The organization has purchased a much-needed, maintenance building structure, installed interpretive signage and--in cooperation with the Citrus County Health Department--developed a health and fitness circuit alongside the Trail. Trail users have the RTW to thank for many amenities that make the Trail more inviting and scenic, such as covered picnic tables, benches, a beautiful gazebo at Inverness and a pavilion with benches at the Citrus Springs Trailhead. Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee's website recently received national recognition from American Trails as the 2010 Best Website by a Trail Organization or Club. 


To learn more about the Withlacoochee State Trail and other Florida trails, visit







Celebrating the Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee Volunteers


Volunteer Photo

     Displaying a "check" that represents the value of the

     Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee volunteer hours

     for 2010 are (l to r): Al Harnage, CSO Volunteer Coordinator;

     Dennis Reiland, CSO President; Mickey Thomason,

     OGT's Central Region Manager.

Members of Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee, the Citizen Support Organization (CSO) for the Withlacoochee State Trail, were the honored guests in an "appreciation picnic" hosted by the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT) on May 6, 2011 at the Withlacoochee State Trail's Inverness Trailhead. For the OGT staff, it was a pleasure to visit with such a dedicated group of volunteers and to pay tribute to their more than 16 years of hard work and strong commitment to this 46-mile rail-trail. Along with a main course of barbecue and the assortment of tasty side dishes everyone brought to share, OGT staff members Mickey Thomason and Chris McKendree treated the group to a fish fry. Homemade ice cream completed a delicious meal that was meant to express a heartfelt "thank you!" to all the volunteers.

It was a banner year to recognize the work of this enthusiastic and capable group of volunteers. In 2010, Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee contributed 9,600 hours in support of the Withlacoochee State Trail, helping extend the state's resources during a critical economic time. The DEP Office of Greenways & Trails salutes the volunteers who demonstrate great pride in the Withlacoochee State Trail through the gifts of their time, energy and fundraising efforts. To all the Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee volunteers--sincerest thanks for your longtime support and congratulations on your many achievements!





Blackwater Heritage State Trail's 6th Annual Bicycle Festival 

Something old, something new, something for everyone!


BHST Bikefest 1

Displaying just a few of the creative bicycle devices

entered in the Bikefest event at Blackwater Heritage

State Trail (BHST) are (l to r): Pat Palmer, Paul Baker,

Kevin Dinwiddie (BHST volunteer),

Richard Rumph (BHST volunteer).

 A simple bicycle-built-for-two might pale in the light of the unusually creative and inventive kinds of bicycles brought to the annual Bicycle Festival held at the Blackwater Heritage State Trail (BHST) in Milton. This year's event, held on May 14, 2011, was well attended as some came out to experience it for the first time, while others returned to see what might be new this time around.


And, this time around,  both the "old" and the "new" were proudly on display, ranging from vintage bikes, custom bikes and homemade bikes to some very interesting, garage creations.


BHST Bicycle Festival 2

Longtime BHST volunteer, Elaine Dinwiddie, with a novel

"chair-iot," complete with helmet. This makes for an

interesting twist on the chair-potato lifestyle!


Exhibitors could enter their bikes and novelty devices in a number of contests, with trophies given in each class. Most exhibitors allowed test rides on their bikes for eager children and curious adults. Many families made a full day of it, enjoying free coffee and doughnuts and an affordable lunch of hot dogs or pulled pork sandwiches.  


The event featured a variety of activities beyond the bicycle contest, including a popular silent auction of donated items. A local artist was on hand to give basic lessons on watercolor painting and a guest speaker shared information on the importance of native tree planting and maintenance. Festivities concluded with the annual twilight ride, which is designed to educate the public on the dangers of riding in low-level light and the importance of a cyclist's visibility as daylight wanes. A guest speaker for this educational program traditionally shares a few safety items with attendees, such as day glow vests, blinking medallions that can be attached to a bicycle or clothing and reflective stickers.


With so much to see and do in a day, those who attended this year's "Bikefest" had every chance to roll home with new safety tools, skills, experiences, information and plenty of creative inspiration!






Teams Ride, Roll and Run for Florida's Greenways and Trails!


Relay Race 2    Relay Race 1

 - Photos by Teresa Slagle-


 A spirited and diverse group of trail users teamed up on March 26, 2011, for a fifth year of fun and friendly racing in the annual Ride-Roll-Run Relay on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. Beautiful weather set the stage for a lively competition as 20 teams ran a novel style of relay race featuring three different types of trail users in each team: one horseback rider, one mountain biker and one trail runner. The Relay is designed to foster understanding between distinctly different types of trail users who enjoy the Cross Florida Greenway individually year 'round. All were delighted to see that their treasured trails were well-maintained and in excellent condition for the race.


Congratulations to this year's winning teams! Top placements and times were as follows:
1st Place--Pabst (Erica Williamson, Jeff Gray, Weston Fletcher)--1:51:02
2nd Place--Diamond Cutters (Elaine Lemieux, Guy Lemieux, Adrian Clinton)--2:02:25
3rd Place--Mojo (Kathleen Henderson, Joshua Shaffer, Zach Whitmore)--2:07:12 


Kudos also to Michelle Shearer, the only participant to run all three legs of the race in individual, triathlon style. Under the name of "Just Do It," Michelle received the prized, last place "Turtle Award" with a time of 3:61:66.


The event raised nearly $1300 for the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation, Inc. A special "thank you" goes out to the GOLD sponsors: Swinson Chiropractic and Radiology Associates of Ocala and the BRONZE sponsors: Winning Edge Saddlery and Ocala Bicycle Center. Terry Niemiller, manager of Dunkin' Donuts (Silver Springs Blvd.) generously contributed coffee and doughnuts. Many thanks to the Cross Florida Greenway volunteers, the Greenway Equestrians, the Ocala Mountain Bike Association, Citrus Runners and the Marion County Sheriff's Department. This event truly could not have been accomplished without their support.


Mark your calendar now for the 6th Annual Ride-Roll-Run Relay scheduled for

March 31, 2012. Community involvement is essential to the continued success of this popular race. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor for next year's event--at any level--please contact the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails at (352) 236-7143. Whether you plan to "ride, roll or run" or just cheer on the teams from the sidelines, this is a great day out on the Greenway!






In Memoriam


The staff of the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails mourn the loss of good friend and longtime volunteer for the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, Wayne Vaught, who passed away suddenly on June 1, 2011. Wayne's frequent presence and dependable support will be missed on a daily basis, yet there remains a lasting legacy of accomplishments and a fond memory of his great-hearted, volunteer spirit.


Web-Wayne VaughtA Cross Florida Greenway volunteer for more than ten years, Wayne Vaught was both a leader and a hard worker who served as an enthusiastic ambassador for the Greenway's extensive equestrian trail system. He was a founding member and president of the Greenway Equestrians and vice president of the Marion County Horseman's Association. In addition to helping maintain, support and monitor the Cross Florida Greenway trails, Wayne served as an effective liaison with an active, equestrian trail user group.  From organizing work days to staffing special events, he worked to facilitate understanding between the equestrians and the hiking and biking trail user groups and recruited the support of many other volunteers and local organizations. 


In 2008, Wayne Vaught received well-deserved, statewide recognition for his leadership and efforts on behalf of the Cross Florida Greenway, in being named as a Florida "Point of Light" volunteer. Wayne's personal mission to help inform and educate trail user groups is an ongoing contribution to the peaceful enjoyment of the Greenway's trails. Though his presence will be missed, Wayne's fine example still stands and his spirit still travels the trails.






Trail at Lafayette Heritage Trail Park


Trailing around on National Trails DayŽ in Tallahassee...

                                                                            By Howard Pardue, Apalachee Chapter, Florida Trail Association

                                                                                                                             Photos by Kent Wimmer, Florida Trail Association 


In the cooler, morning hours of Saturday, June 4, 2011, Tallahassee's National Trails DayŽ (NTD) celebration welcomed 150 people, who gathered at Lafayette Heritage Trail Park to explore a variety of activities. Kayaks provided by Wilderness Way outfitters graced the waters of Piney Z Lake, 40 hikers took off on lakeside trails and cyclists headed down the Cadillac Trail. 


It was a perfect morning out for trail-lovers of all descriptions. Hikers gathered around Trail and Ski's gear and talked shop. Children's activities included coloring NTD pictures and playing with NTD "tattoos." Maps of city parks and hiking and biking handouts offered participants information for their next outdoor adventure. Lemonade, water and cookies fueled the picturesque outdoor scene as a banjo tune tickled the air. Hundreds of trail-related "giveaways" gave participants a tangible reminder to just get outdoors and enjoy Florida


NTD Hiking Group

FTA volunteers lead participants out for a hike

along lakeside trails.

Evolving from President Ronald Reagan's Commission on Americans Outdoors, National Trails DayŽ was launched in 1993. A signature event of the American Hiking Society, this year's National Trails DayŽ was celebrated in all 50 states and several other countries. In Florida alone, there were 23 NTD celebrations. 


Organized by Linda Patton and Terry Tenold of the Florida Trail Association (FTA), the Tallahassee celebration was co-sponsored by the City of Tallahassee Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Affairs and FTA, in partnership with the Tallahassee Mountain Bike Association, Wilderness Way paddle sports outfitters, and a hiking outfitter, Trail and Ski. 





Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail Volunteers in the Spotlight


FKOHT Picnic SpeakerSeveral of the enthusiastic, public-spirited volunteers who help maintain the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (FKOHT) were guests of honor during a bike ride to Pigeon Key on

March 26, 2011. Riet Steinmetz, Pigeon Key Foundation volunteer, told the fascinating history of this island camp that once housed Henry Flagler's railroad workers and all enjoyed an "appreciation picnic" for the volunteers.  See the latest issue of Trail Talk at FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails for details and all the news of the FKOHT.






Annual Paddlers Poker Run on the Ocklawaha River

Paddling 'up a lazy river' with a challenge and for a good cause


It was a beautiful day for paddling along the

Poker Run

The Paddlers Poker Run registered 184 watercrafts

for this year's event.  - Photo by John Greene -

Ocklawaha River as the Marion County Aquaholics Paddlers Group hosted their 13th Annual Paddlers Poker Run on May 21, 2011. Office of Greenways & Trails staff assisted with this benefit event as paddlers embarked from Gores Landing on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway and went on to collect cards from various locations along the waterway in a riverine version of "five-card draw." Half of the proceeds from this popular event are donated to a worthy cause each year. This year's proceeds will help purchase supplies for the children who participate in the Ocala Outdoor Adventure Camp. Check out the Marion County Aquaholics Paddlers Group website for a follow-up on the successful fundraising and good times enjoyed in this year's Poker Run and other paddling events.






Finding Florida From a Kayak  


Ochlockonee River

Ochlockonee River, Womack Campground,

Tate's Hell State Forest -- Photo by Doug Alderson



Doug Alderson, Paddling Trails Coordinator for the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails, recently received this communication from Marilyn Feaver, in which she beautifully expresses her fondness and affinity for Florida's waters. Marilyn graciously gave permission for Doug to share her letter with Connections readers, who may also appreciate its heartfelt sentiments.




Having been brought up in Hawaii, born and raised on the Big Island, surrounded by the beautiful wildness of gulches and streams which all lead to the sea and later nurtured by the woodland trails and beaches of Oahu for 11 years, I've never had a connection with Florida, although I have lived here since 1973. Kayaking the Bear Creek Canoe Trail about two weeks ago, it dawned on me that I had never ever had a sense of place since leaving Hawaii. Oahu has changed too much.  Although the island of Hawaii still has its wild spots, those areas are not as accessible as when I was a child. And I realized, having kayaked this year in some beautiful areas of north Florida, that here is where I can go to find myself, here is my place. This weekend we camped at the Womack Tract in Tate's Hell and kayaked Womack Creek. We felt so grateful for places such as this. What serendipity -- the wild azaleas were all in bloom as were the fringe trees and sparkleberry and blackberries and titi and, except for the black gum, all the trees were in various shades of greening. On Friday, when the day was dry and mild, I thought, if this was Hawaii the scent of flowers would be permeating the air. On Sunday, just before an impending storm, we took another short trip up the creek and the warmer day and humidity and breeze wafted the scent of the wild azaleas our way. And, if we return in May, the sweetbays will be blooming and most certainly scenting the air. On Saturday we got to see how well our kayaks do in an open bay with waves higher than we have experienced. To have the woodland creek and then the ocean bay in a weekend -- what a gift we have. We'll be doing Myakka River in June. Rhea Chiles considers this the most beautiful river she's seen and we're looking forward to kayaking it. We've been all over Florida from one age-group swim venue to another and it was like going from one chain motel to another, one chain restaurant to another, one Starbucks to another. Hard to get a sense of place this way. But Florida's rivers, its bays, its wild places -- now here's where one can get a sense of place and we're looking forward to introduce our North Carolina grand kids to this Florida. And the kayaking/canoe trails did it.

Marilyn Feaver





"Tour de Parks Fun Ride" Showcases

The Legacy Trail and Sarasota County Parks


Legacy Trail bridge

Riders in the 2011 Tour de Parks Fun Ride

cross the Dona Bay Trestle Bridge,
a showpiece feature of The Legacy Trail.    

- Photo by LuAnn Booker -

The 2011 Tour de Parks Fun Ride, held on April 3, 2011, was a very successful county-wide event featuring The Legacy Trail and the area's treasured parks. This fully supported bike ride, cosponsored by Friends of the Legacy Trail (FLT) and Sarasota County Parks and Recreation, welcomed 506 participants, ranging in age from 8-84, who cycled distances from 15-65 miles. Though approximately 75% of the cyclists were from Sarasota County, the event attracted visitors and participants from elsewhere in Florida and 13 other states, as well as Canada and Austria.


Safety and education about trail etiquette were a major focus of this year's event, as the Tour's T-shirt--the first in a planned series of visual aids--carried the message: "Please Announce: Passing on your Left." Proceeds from this event serve to help educate trail users and provide improvements for The Legacy Trail. A portion of this year's proceeds are allocated for the purchase of automatic counters, to enable FLT to count trail users electronically.


Historically linked by a rail line that served the area for nearly 70 years, the cities of Sarasota and Venice are now connected by this same corridor through the multi-use, 10.6-mile Legacy Trail. Next year's 2012 Tour de Parks is set for March 25, 2012, to be held in conjunction with City of Venice's 85th Anniversary Celebration. The route will depart from the Historic Venice Train Depot and make use of the Bicycle/Pedestrian overpass, currently under construction, which will connect the 10 miles of trails north of Hwy 41 with the 10 miles of trails south of Hwy 41.    






Keys100 Runners See Progress  

on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail


The 4th annual Keys100 race, held May 14-15, 2011, attracted more than 700 runners, in a point-to-point event that began in Key Largo (or Marathon, for the 50-mile race) and ended in Key West at Smathers Beach. The race route included the 70-plus miles of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (FKOHT) that have been completed to date. 

The Keys100 raises funds each year for prostate cancer education, screenings and research in the Keys and South Florida and offers the only USA Track & Field sanctioned 50 and 100-mile ultramarathon races in South Florida. A novel and popular six-runner, 100-mile, team relay race offers participants a chance to run shorter segments of the route.


 Monroe County welcomed approximately 1,000 visitors to the Keys for this event. The runners and their support crews, along with family and friends, contribute to the local economy through overnight stays and added vacation time. Returning runners appreciated the miles of the FKOHT that have been constructed since last year's race and are already looking forward to seeing more trail completed by this time next year. News and updates on the FKOHT and its continuing progress are featured in the Trail Talk newsletter at






Paddle Florida's 2012 Keys Challenge  


Paddle Florida Scouting Team

Paddle Florida coordinators and volunteer crew during a  Florida Keys scouting trip in 2010. 

Paddle Florida has expanded its next Keys paddling trip to "go the distance!" The Florida Keys Challenge Paddle, January 12-22, 2012, will run the entire length of the Keys, from John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo to Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West. The trip will be held as part of the Keys' Flagler Centennial Celebration, with paddlers scheduled to reach Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park on the 100th anniversary of Henry Flagler's 1912 arrival by train in Key West. For details and to register, visit Paddle Florida. 






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FDEP Office of Greenways & Trails | 3900 Commonwealth Blvd. MS 795 | Tallahassee | FL | 32399