Winter 2011 Title Bar Newsletter
Cross Florida Greenway Hiking Trail

Welcome to the Winter 2011 Edition of Connections!

In This Issue of Connections:
February is Florida Hiking Trails Month
Palatka-Lake Butler Opening
Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail Improvements
OGT Staff win at Engine Academy
Iron Horse Endurance Race
Paddle Florida "Keys Challenge"
Florida Trail Days
Ride-Roll-Run Relay
Bike Florida Tour
Longer River Trails
Marion Therapeutic Riding Association
East Coast Greenway Journey
Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation
Calendar Highlights


February is Florida Hiking Trails Month!

The Florida Trail Association (FTA) is once again encouraging Floridians and our winter visitors to "Take a Hike" in February. The FTA is celebrating February as Florida Hiking Trails Month and is hosting dozens of activities and hikes throughout the state. Hikers can enjoy over 2,000 miles of hiking trails in Florida including the Florida National Scenic Trail which stretches some 1,400 miles from Big Cypress National Preserve in the south, to Gulf Islands National Seashore in the northwest. Nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and people of all ages and backgrounds can experience the beauty and wonder of natural Florida along the Florida Trail.

The FTA volunteers maintain hiking trails and lead hikes near your community year-round. For more information on hikes and hiking trails near your home, please visit or call 877-HIKE-FLA.


Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail Construction Milestone

~Ribbon cutting celebrates first Putnam County segment of developing state trail~


Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

(l to r) Jeff Hardy, Putnam County Sheriff; Nancy Harris, Putnam County Commissioner; John Lyles, Town of Interlachen Mayor; Brad Purcell, Putnam County Commissioner; Kenny Eubanks, Putnam County Commissioner; Chip Laibl, Putnam County Commissioner; Ken Bryan, Florida Director of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy; Alan Mosley, Florida Department of Transportation, District 2 Secretary; Karl Flagg, City of Palatka Mayor


The DEP Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT) joined the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and Putnam County on November 9, 2010 to celebrate the opening of the first four miles of the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail to be paved in Putnam County.


The Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail, which is managed by OGT, stretches nearly 47 miles through Putnam, Union, Clay and Bradford counties along the former Norfolk-Southern Railroad right-of-way. The Trail is being paved in phases by FDOT. The newly paved four-mile segment of the Trail in Putnam County connects to a five-mile segment of the Trail in Clay County which was completed in 2008.


"The opening of this four-mile section of the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail brings the Department closer to its goal of improving all modes of transportation and helps make northeast Florida a more friendly place for pedestrians and cyclists," said FDOT District 2 Secretary Alan Mosley. "Through economic stimulus funding, we have been able to move toward that goal."


The next segment of the Trail to be paved is through Florahome in Putnam County and is scheduled to begin this year.


"We are very excited about the official opening of the completed western Putnam County portion of the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail," said Putnam County Commissioner Brad Purcell. "We appreciate the committed partnership of FDOT and DEP's Office of Greenways & Trails in making this possible and for sharing in our desire to create opportunities for small business owners while providing another breath-taking, nature-based opportunity for our citizens."



 Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail Improvements
Resurfacing and widening project completed on the southern portion of the Trail


Trail Construction

Going Green: Old asphalt is milled to fine gravel then compacted and reused in the sub-base for the new trail surface.

The Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail was the first rail-trail in the state trail system to be paved and has provided Floridians with more than 22 years of service. In June, 2010, a much-needed resurfacing project began in order to improve public safety and usability of this popular trail. Portions of it are also being widened from eight to twelve feet, to bring it in line with the width of other state trails.


The paving of this 16-mile trail is being conducted in phases and on October 13, 2010, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to reopen the first three miles of resurfaced trail, beginning at its southern terminus in the City of St. Marks. Along with remarks by state and local officials, Will Seccombe, Chief Marketing Officer for VISIT FLORIDA, was on hand to discuss the new Trails-Tourism website premiered by VISIT FLORIDA in early October. Members of the Florida Greenways and Trails Council attended the ceremony following their quarterly meeting which was held in the City of St. Marks.


Bob Ballard
"Today's event signifies two milestones for Florida residents and visitors," said Bob Ballard, DEP's Deputy Secretary for Land and Recreation, as he applauded the improvements to this popular rail-trail. "The newly repaved segment of the Tallahassee-St. Marks Trail, coupled with VISIT FLORIDA's comprehensive trail website, increase public accessibility and awareness of all the beautiful outdoor experiences Florida has to offer."

Construction of all 11 miles of trail in Wakulla County was completed in time for the Gulf Winds Track Club's 23rd Annual Flash 12K/6K Runs Marathon, which is scheduled to take place on February 19, 2011 along this southern portion of the Trail (see Event Calendar for details). The contract bidding process for resurfacing of the five-mile Leon County segment of the Trail is underway, with construction likely to begin early in 2011 and targeted for completion by mid-year. It is possible that the entire trail may be open to the public for a brief span of time before construction begins on the northern Leon County portion. For updates on the status of this Trail project, visit


DEP's Office of Greenways & Trails

Teams Up for A Win at the Engine Academy


Engine Academy

A tired but very proud student team beat the instructor's team to win the 2010 Engine Academy's amazing hoselay race in early November (l to r): Byran Huggins (US Forest Service-Osceola), John DeHoff (DEP Office of Greenways & Trails-Cross Florida Greenway), Tessa Sheridan (Florida Park Service-Savannas). 

Effective management of Florida's greenways, trails and parks requires that staff possess a wide variety of skills and the ability to handle a range of potentially hazardous situations. The opportunity to become trained in fighting wildland fires is available through the "Engine Academy," which is hosted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Division of Recreation and Parks with the help of interagency partners. This rigorous, 40+ hour, hands-on training program teaches students how to properly and effectively use a wildland fire brush truck/engine to suppress fire. 


An intensive week of classroom and practical instruction culminates with live-fire exercises in which the students are expected to successfully demonstrate their new skills. One of the most challenging exercises is the "hoselay race," a friendly, spirited competition in which teams of student engine crews, as well as a team of instructors, race head-to-head using various fire tools to wet down a series of targets. The fastest team moves on, the slower team is eliminated and the championship usually ends up with the best student team competing against the seasoned instructor team. When the students manage to defeat the instructors, an enthusiastic celebration follows and-win or lose-all are known to take home lasting memories of the hoselay competition.


Several members of the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails field staff have participated in the Engine Academy including Lance Calaverne, John Dehoff, Marshall Gray and Chris McKendree. Kudos to John Dehoff on his team's recent victory in the hoselay competition-quite an honor!


Iron Horse Endurance Race Returns to Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail

Ultrarunners travel from far and wide to compete and test their skills along this scenic North Florida trail corridor.


Iron Horse

Amy Costa of Jacksonville on her way to a win in the Iron Horse Endurance Race.

Last February's extraordinary cold did not chill the spirits of the ultrarunners who look to the Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail (PLBST) as the natural home of the Iron Horse Endurance Race that is now in its sixth year. On February 19, 2011, 110 runners will return to the PLBST to test their mettle in a weekend of 100-mile, 100-km and 50-mile races along a scenic corridor that reveals the wild beauty of rural North Florida.


The route for this year's race is in Putnam County between Florahome and Grandin, communities that heartily welcome the arrival of ultrarunners from throughout the country and "across the pond." The race was developed by Chris Rodatz, an ultrarunner from Orange Park, Florida who has partnered with the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT) and the Trail's surrounding communities to create an annual event that is truly a win-win for all. Over the past two years, participation has reached its maximum of 110 runners, many of whom travel from great distances-as far away as Alaska, Canada and England. The event not only helps boost the economy of the area, but also highlights the importance of this developing rail-trail to a rural region that values trails and can truly benefit from nature-based tourism.


The 47-mile PLBST corridor is in development as a paved, multi-use rail-trail that runs through Putnam, Union, Clay and Bradford counties. Managed by OGT, it is being paved in phases by the Florida Department of Transportation. In the meantime, the ultrarunners of the Iron Horse Marathon still have the experience of a rustic, unpaved course before them next month-hopefully, this year, without the extreme cold! For more information on the upcoming race, see



Paddle Florida to Host the "Keys Challenge"
A saltwater paddling excursion is planned for the coming President's Day weekend.

Paddle Florida works to promote paddling throughout the state, in close cooperation with Visit Florida and Florida State Parks. Over President's Day weekend, February 18-21, 2011, Paddle Florida will host the Keys Challenge, a 30-mile adventure from Curry Hammock State Park to Bahia Honda State Park.

Having assisted Paddle Florida leader, Bill Richards, in a scouting trip last spring, Monica Woll, Trail Specialist for the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (FKOHT), looks forward to the supporting role that FKOHT staff will play in providing onsite interpretation for the Keys Challenge.

For more information on the Keys Challenge and other fully supported paddling trips, visit Paddle Florida. The latest activities on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and recent construction progress updates can be found in the latest issue of Trail Talk at


Florida Trail Days


Come on out to Florida's heartland over the weekend of March 11-13, 2011, when hikers will gather at the Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park for the Florida Trail Association's (FTA) FLORIDA TRAIL DAYS. The theme of "Wilderness Adventures," will focus on outdoor skill building and safety awareness. Keynote speaker and founder of the FTA, Jim Kern, will feature photos from his book, The Wildlife Art & Adventures of Jim Kern, Photographer, and share stories of how he obtained the images. Special guest, Kelly Savage, Community Outreach Director for St. John's Riverkeeper, will speak about this non-profit organization's mission to preserve and restore the quality and ecology of the St. Johns River. Other highlights include a Night Creatures Hike led by Jim Duby, program manager for Seminole County's natural lands as well as a presentation on the solar system by Tony Urzi with the Central Florida Astronomical Society. A telescope will be set up for sky viewing on Friday and Saturday nights and Saturday afternoon.


Programming begins on Friday, March 11 at 3 p.m. A full meal plan and both on-site accommodations and camping options are available. For information and to register online, visit or call 877-HIKE-FLA. Last-minute, on-site registrations are welcome.



5th Annual Ride-Roll-Run Relay


RRR Relay LogoGet ready...get ride or run for a good cause in the 5th Annual Ride-Roll-Run Relay scheduled for March 26, 2011 on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. Whether you travel best by horse or bicycle or just on your own two feet, there's some friendly competition in store and all of it designed to benefit Florida's greenways and trails. Proceeds from the event are donated to the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation which helps maintain, enhance and expand public access to Florida's recreational and conservation lands.


Back by popular demand, and with a move to a warmer, springtime date, this innovative race brings together three different types of trail users for a refreshingly different kind of competition. Teams composed of one horseback rider, one mountain biker and one trail runner participate in this relay, coordinated by the Ocala Mountain Bike Association, Greenway Equestrians, the Ocala Runners Club, the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails and the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation. 


Designed to foster understanding among diverse groups, the relay's continued popularity indicates a growing sense of community among these trail user groups. While this is a beginner friendly race in terms of distance (horses-7 miles; bikers-10 miles; runners-3.5 miles), the teams make a spirited effort to win. Ribbons will be awarded for the first through tenth place teams along with the coveted Turtle Award for the team that arrives just in time for the closing ceremony!


For more information or to register for the event, see


 Bike Florida 2011 "Florida's Eden"


March 26-April 1

North Central Florida 

John Moran Photo flowers

Photo by John Moran


Bike Florida 2011 is a week-long, fully supported bicycle camping tour that will take you through what is considered "Florida's Eden" with turquoise springs and rivers, rich forests, rolling pastures covered with wildflowers and through the hidden treasures of Florida's quaint towns and historic hamlets. You will also visit the city of Gainesville, home to the University of Florida and its famous Florida Gators! The tour is leisurely paced and designed to be a fun and relaxing vacation for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Come join the fun, and bring along a friend to experience the joys of cycling in sunny Florida!


For more information and registration, please visit, email or call (352) 224-8602.


Meeting the Demand for Longer River Trails


Apalachicola Paddling

Apalachicola River, Photo by Doug Alderson

For paddlers who seek to tackle Florida's longer river systems, volunteers are working together to establish paddling trails for the St. Johns and Apalachicola Rivers. These rivers have been paddled by Native Americans in dugout canoes for thousands of years, but only a few adventurers have paddled the rivers in recent years, having to piece together enough information to plan a trip. Maps and guides will offer more trip options and make the rivers more accessible to a broader range of paddlers.


The St. Johns, at 310 miles in length, would be Florida's longest river paddling trail, beginning near Vero Beach and flowing north to the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville as it features three distinct characteristics: wilderness, springs and big water. Paddlers in Putnam County, bolstered by their successful efforts to have the Putnam County Blueways approved for state designation by the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT), will take the lead in mapping this river trail. They plan to coordinate a committee of individuals from throughout the river system to develop the trail guide and maps under the auspices of the St. Johns River Alliance, with the help of OGT and the St. Johns River Water Management District.


The Apalachicola Riverkeeper is spearheading efforts to develop the trail guide for the 107-mile Apalachicola River. Paddler Earl Morrogh will author the guide, with assistance from OGT, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and several volunteers. The Apalachicola begins at Lake Seminole along the Georgia border and passes alongside Florida's tallest bluffs and largely undeveloped, thick hardwood forests and swamps before flowing into Apalachicola Bay along the Gulf Coast.


Currently, Florida's only state designated river paddling trail of more than 100 miles long is the 207-mile Suwannee River Wilderness Trail, which is periodically the site of paddling trips led by Paddle Florida. Upcoming trips planned by Paddle Florida will also include parts of the St. Johns, Peace and Ochlockonee Rivers, as well as the Florida Keys. For information about Florida's designated paddling trails, see Additionally, the Florida Paddling Trails Association and the Florida Professional Paddlesports Association are good sources for outfitters, rentals, shuttles and guided trips.


Marion Therapeutic Riding Association, Inc.-Serving the Heart of Florida
The Cross Florida Greenway is home to a beneficial and uncommon form of therapy.

By Laurie Bruun

Horseback riding along the peaceful trails of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway is a natural form of relaxation and stress relief for all trail users but, for some, a 30-acre site on the Greenway is the setting for so much more, thanks to the work of the Marion Therapeutic Riding Association (MTRA).  


For 25 years, the MTRA has been offering the miraculous benefits of therapeutic horseback riding and equine assisted activities to central Florida. There is a magic in a horse that has been proven to be strong medicine. The rhythmic motion of the animal's gait moves the rider's body in a manner similar to the normal human pelvic movement. This synergistic movement of rider and horse improves balance, core muscular strength, coordination and flexibility. In addition to physical improvements, the ability to control this large animal inspires confidence and a feeling of self-worth - something that might be lacking when one is unable to stand or walk. 


Working with horses teaches responsibility, kindness and self-discipline - those with autism use the horse as a vehicle to bridge their two worlds. Therapeutic riding exposes and encourages interaction with other participants, thus encouraging friendships and interpersonal relationships. Horses allow those trapped with a disability the ability to break free and recognize their strengths in a very dignified and powerful manner. 


The MTRA serves five counties in central Florida and the Marion County School District from facilities on the Cross Florida Greenway and at the Hillcrest School for Exceptional Children. The MTRA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that currently provides riding classes to over 150 clients, primarily through volunteer support. Having never turned away a client due to lack of finances, the MTRA is struggling to continue to provide scholarships in the face of today's economic challenges. To learn more about the fascinating work of the MTRA or how to support the organization, please visit or contact Kate Robbins, Program Director, at (352) 732-7300.


One Man's Mission to Master Florida's East Coast Greenway Route
Albert E. Melvin becomes first known cyclist to make the entire roundtrip journey of the East Coast Greenway in Florida.

Long Key Bridge

Al welcomed the addition of fishing piers to the Long Key Bridge on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, which is designated as a part of the East Coast Greenway in Florida.

Albert E. (Al) Melvin, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran from Milton, Florida, recently accomplished what is believed to be the first effort to cycle the entire Florida segment of the East Coast Greenway (ECG), for a roundtrip journey of 1,160 miles. In a mission to honor his fallen comrades and raise awareness of veterans' health issues, Al researched the ECG route and trained for the trip on the paved Blackwater Heritage StateTrail  in Santa Rosa County. 

After cycling 1,160 miles of the state in 23 1/2 days during October, 2010, Al believes that Florida is ideally situated to become the "premier cycling destination of America...rather than being something that vacationers 'also do' when they come to Florida, cycling could become the primary reason many visitors come to Florida, especially during the cooler months."

To learn more about Al's journey and other cycling news, check out the Winter issue of the Florida Bicycle Association's Messenger at

To see photos and read about Al's travels and his mission, visit The East Coast Greenway is a developing trail system, spanning nearly 3,000 miles between Canada and Key West, linking all the major cities of the eastern seaboard. Over 28 percent of the route is already on safe, traffic-free paths and Florida is home to the longest designated segment of the ECG. For more information, see



FGTF LogoMake A Difference for

Florida's Trails and Greenways! 



The Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation (FGTF) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation that supports the goals, missions and programs of the Office of Greenways & Trails.


Visit to learn more about the FGTF and how you can help maintain, enhance and expand public access to Florida's recreational and conservation lands.


Florida Greenways and Trails Month Calendar Highlights

February 5, March 5, April 2, 2011

Flagler Bike Tour

Key West

See historic points of interest associated with railroad magnate Henry Flagler in a 6-7 mile bicycling tour. Tour is limited to 15 cyclists and is free except for (optional) admission to attractions ($8). For registration and details, contact Cristina Lindley at (305) 360-2532 or email


February 13, March 13, 2011

"Tour of Boca" Bicycle Rides

Boca Raton  

Family-friendly bike rides for ages 10+ with a nominal fee of $2 per person. Children ages 10-14 must be accompanied by an adult; all riders MUST wear a helmet. For additional information, contact


February 18-21, 2011

Keys Challenge Paddling Trip

Hosted by Paddle Florida, this weekend kayaking excursion in the Florida Keys runs from Curry Hammock State Park to Bahia Honda State Park. For information on fees and registration, see


February 19, 2011

6th Annual Iron Horse Endurance Race

Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail, Putnam County

National and international ultrarunners  gather for a fun and competitive weekend of 100-mile, 100-km and 50-mile races along a rustic, scenic North Florida rail-trail corridor. Registration closes on February 1, 2011. For information on fees and full details, see


February 19, 2011

23rd Annual Gulf Winds Track Club Flash 12K & 6K Runs

Southern three miles of the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail

City of St. Marks

Both runs, 12K & 6K, begin at San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park (148 Old Fort Road St. Marks, Florida 32355) and continue north on the Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail. The 12K turnaround will be at Hwy 98 (Coastal Highway). For details, see or call (850) 668-4907.


February 19, 2011

Horses for Hospice 11th Annual Trail Ride

Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway-Ocala

$30 minimum donation to ride; wagons welcome!

Includes lunch by Tommy's BBQ, 50 door prizes to be given away and entertainment by Bordertown. For more information and pre-registration, contact Karen or Jenny at (352) 854-5218 or


February 19, 2011

12 Hours of Santos

Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway-Belleview

Mountain biking event hosted by Gone Riding. For information, as it becomes available, see or visit


March 11-13, 2011

Florida Trail Days

Fruitland Park

The Florida Trail Association's annual gathering will focus on "Wilderness Adventures," featuring outdoor skill building and safety awareness. Information and online registration are available at or call 877-HIKE-FLA.  


March 18-20, 2011

Spring Break Fat Tire Festival at Santos

Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway-Belleview

Hosted by the Ocala Mountain Bike Association, this weekend event is a perennial sell-out, featuring mountain biking, food, music and vendors. For details and to register, see


March 24, 2011

Florida Bike Summit


Details as they become available will be posted by the Florida Bicycle Association.


March 26, 2011

5th Annual Ride-Roll-Run Relay

Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway

Land Bridge Trailhead

Teams of three, composed of an equestrian, a mountain biker and a runner, compete in this relay as a benefit for the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation, Inc. For more information, see





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