Welcome to the Summer 2011 Edition of Connections!
Withlacoochee State Trail Designated As National
-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 criteria
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 FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com.
Celebrating the Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee
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
Something old, something
new, something for everyone!
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.
Longtime BHST volunteer, Elaine Dinwiddie, with a
"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
Photos by Teresa Slagle-
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
3rd Place--Mojo (Kathleen Henderson, Joshua Shaffer, Zach
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 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.
A 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.
Trailing around on National Trails DayŽ in
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
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.
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
Keys Overseas Heritage Trail Volunteers in the Spotlight
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
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
River, Womack Campground,
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.
de Parks Fun Ride" Showcases
The Legacy Trail and Sarasota County Parks
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
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 FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com.
Paddle Florida's 2012 Keys Challenge
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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