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Welcome to the Spring 2011 Edition of Connections!

In This Issue of Connections:
Economic Impact of Trails
Ocala Mountain Bike Association Partners
Nature Coast State Trail Extension
Florida Circumnavigational Bicycle Trip
Explore the Cross Florida Greenway by Wagon
"Horses for Hospice"
Paddle Florida Trip
New Edition of the Circumnavigational Trail Guide Available
New Trail Amenities
Biking the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
Calendar Highlights


Trails Economic Impact Study Underway

Initial survey yields valuable information on trails and the economy


Some compelling numbers have been revealed in the first set of results to come out of a recent economic impact study on trails, conducted as a joint effort by the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails and Orange County. The three Orange County trails included in the study (West Orange, Cady Way and Little Econ) supported over 500 jobs and an estimated economic impact of $42.6 million in 2010! This study is yielding valuable, hard data that documents and emphasizes the contribution trails make to the prosperity of communities.

The communities and partners who support trail development throughout the state recognize the value of trails with respect to quality of life and, increasingly, are appreciating their return on investment. Florida's growing trail system not only serves the transportation and health needs of residents, but also provides destinations for visitors from around the world and helps diversify the state's tourism economy. To view the details of the Orange County economic impact study and the "rest of the story," see FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com.


Cheers and Applause for the Ocala Mountain Bike Association

Partners in growing Florida's nature-based tourism



The Ocala Mountain Bike Association proudly presented the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails with a "check" representing the club's 3,862 hours of volunteer service in 2010, valued at $70,288. (l to r) Timothy Mulhall, President, Ocala Mountain Bike Association; Mickey Thomason, OGT's Central Region Manager; Rob Ern, Vice President, Ocala Mountain Bike Association.

Thanks to a time-honored partnership between DEP's Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT) and the Ocala Mountain Bike Association (OMBA), the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway is home to an internationally recognized network of mountain bike trails that serve as a major point of attraction for the Greenway's nearly two million annual visitors and the venue for many of Florida's premier off-road biking competitions. Seeing the need over time to improve the safety, navigability and sustainability of the Greenway's natural setting for off-road biking, OGT engaged the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) in 2003-04 to work with OMBA, on re-designing the Santos mountain bike trails. Results were so successful that, in 2006, the Santos trail system received IMBA's "Epic Ride" designation of the 'best of the best' in mountain bike trails. IMBA has also recently identified the Santos trail network as the only site in the Southeast that it plans to promote as a "Ride Center"-a professionally designed, extensive trail network that offers the full range of mountain biking experiences, bringing major economic benefits to its host community as a tourist attraction and magnet for business development.

"We value our long-standing partnership with OMBA and its work to create and maintain such a popular, added attraction for the Cross Florida Greenway," said Mickey Thomason, OGT's Central Region Manager. "We cannot say enough about the accomplishments and dedication of a volunteer group that, so willingly, does so much to extend the state's natural and economic resources and boost Florida tourism."

OMBA members have contributed over 12,500 hours just since 2008, in managing nearly 70 miles of singletrack trails, two pump tracks, a dirt jump park, a freeride park and a bike safety patrol. The club also hosts the Annual Spring Break Fat Tire Festival-a sell-out weekend that attracts 350 visitors and is just one of the events that raises funds to help support trail maintenance and improvements.

For information on OMBA's programs and events, visit omba.org.


Nature Coast State Trail Extension

Surrounding communities look forward to greater connectivity


In December, 2010, the State of Florida and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Office of Greenways & Trails officially took ownership of a 9.33-mile corridor, known as the Trenton-Newberry Rail-Trail project, which will ultimately serve as an extension of the Nature Coast State Trail (NCST). "Extending the reach and connectivity of this scenic rail-trail, which already serves more than 140,000 annual visitors, will add to its attraction for nature-based tourism," said Jim Wood, Assistant Director of the Office of Greenways & Trails. "We appreciate the support of The Trust for Public Land in helping acquire a corridor that strengthens the role of the NCST in supporting the economy of this rural area."


The rail-trail project will begin at the Trenton Depot trailhead and terminate approximately three miles from the town of Newberry, traversing a portion of Gilchrist County to connect with existing sections of the NCST in Dixie and Levy Counties. DEP's Division of State Lands negotiated this purchase with The Trust for Public Land, which had entered into a purchase option agreement with CSX Transportation. "The Trust for Public Land helps create healthy and vibrant communities by working with the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails to turn former rail corridors into linear parks and trails," said Greg Chelius, Florida State Director for The Trust for Public Land.  "This Trenton-Newberry rail-trail acquisition is a prime example of what can be accomplished through a significant partnership with CSX Railroad and a major step toward building healthy and sustainable communities throughout Florida." The acquisition was approved for purchase by the State in June, 2010, with Florida Forever funds allocated to DEP's Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT).

The Trenton-Newberry extension will be managed by OGT as part of the NCST. OGT staff has begun preliminary preparations for future development of the corridor, with the support of the Lancaster Correctional Institution in Trenton. Updates to the NCST management plan must be approved prior to development of infrastructure and paving of the extension. To seek public input on the management plan, OGT will host two public meetings on April 7, 2011 in Fanning Springs. For details on the meetings and to view a copy of the proposed draft management plan, see FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com. As part of the long term goals and objectives for the NCST, management will seek funding to develop and pave the extension to resemble the existing Trail.



Florida Circumnavigation Bicycle Trip

Once again, Al Melvin is a man on a mission!


Connections readers may recall the story from the Winter, 2011 issue of this newsletter about Al Melvin, the first known cyclist to make the entire roundtrip journey of the Florida portion of the East Coast Greenway. It seems this experience proved worthwhile for Al, since he has already begun to plan his next trip! This Fall, Al aims to circumnavigate the entire state of Florida with a bicycle trip of 2,000 miles in 50 days. 

The purpose of this trip will be to raise funds to build a shelter for homeless veterans in the Florida Panhandle. Al is inviting local cycling clubs and trail experts to join him for any segment of his journey, which will start and finish at the War Memorial in Pensacola. He plans to ride across the Panhandle and work his way down the western side of the state, where he may access the Nature Coast State Trail, the Pinellas Trail, the Withlacoochee State Trail and the Suncoast Trail as he travels southward to the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. From there, he will turn back north by way of the East Coast Greenway route to reach the Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail before traveling on through north Florida for his return to Pensacola.

If you would like to learn more about Al Melvin's mission and plans for his next trip, his blog makes for good reading.


Exploring the Cross Florida Greenway by Wagon 


CFG Wagon


To enjoy the Cross Florida Greenway from a different perspective and learn something new along the way, check out the weekly wagon rides offered by A Hitch 'N Time, featuring pre-arranged educational programs for up to 16 passengers. The DEP Office of Greenways & Trails provides supporting educational materials and A Hitch 'N Time tour guides tailor the trip to the interests of the passengers with topics that may include pioneering, forestry, biology, botany, geology, birding, trail history, etc. The wagon leaves from the CR 475 trailhead and travels west across the Land Bridge to the 49th Avenue trailhead at Belleview, Florida, for a six-mile roundtrip. The journey takes approximately four hours, with a stop for a picnic lunch (though lunch is not included). The weekday ride is offered once each week, with prepaid reservations only and weather permitting. For more information on these educational adventures, visit AHitchNTime.com.



Cross Florida Greenway is Home to "Horses for Hospice" Fundraiser 

Equestrians ride the trails each year on behalf of a good cause.

Horses for Hospice
The "Horses for Hospice" riders make use of one of the two underpasses recently constructed on the Greenway east of the Land Bridge. These underpasses at CR 475 and CR 475A permit safe passage for trail users through a busy area.

For the past ten years, equestrians have come together for a friendly, annual trail ride on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway to show their support and raise funds for Hospice of Marion County. The tradition continued this year with 190 participants coming out for the event which took place on February 19, 2011.

Beginning at the Florida Horse Park, the ride route varies each year and is marked out by experienced rider Wayne Vaught, a longtime Cross Florida Greenway volunteer who received Florida's "Point of Light" volunteer award in 2008. Wayne marked this year's trail route to take the riders westward and across the Land Bridge before they returned to the Horse Park to enjoy a hearty lunch by Tommy's BBQ and live musical entertainment.

This year's event raised $23,750 for Hospice of Marion County. A grand total of $130,738 has been contributed to Hospice by the 1,713 riders who have participated in this event over time. Plan to join in the fun next year and take part in the 12th Annual "Horses for Hospice!" For more information on this charitable cause, visit hospiceofmarion.com.


Paddle Florida's "Dam to the Bay" Trip on the Ochlockonee River"


Paddle Florida Sunrise


Paddle Florida successfully completed its 11th trip and its first on the Ochlockonee River in mid-March. Thirty paddlers enjoyed spring beauty and warm comaraderie for six days and 76 miles on the river from Highway 20 to Bald Point State Park. This beautiful photo was taken by Doug Alderson, Paddling Trails Coordinator for the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails, who assisted with the trip's logistics and educational programs. For information on future excursions planned, see PaddleFlorida.org.



Second Edition of Circumnavigational Trail Guide Now Available 


Book CoverThe second edition guidebook for the 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, commonly referred to as the CT, is now available for purchase. Six significant updates have been made since the first guide was published, mostly in regard to overnight stays along the Trail. The updates are referenced on the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT) website, FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com; see "What's New on the Trail."


The guide, created by OGT, alleviates the need to download and print 26 different segment guides and other information from the website. It includes the trail guide text and data book along with trip planning and safety information and recommended gear for a CT journey. Color maps must still be downloaded and printed from FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com.  


All proceeds from the sale of the guide go directly to the non-profit Florida Paddling Trails Association (FPTA). The FPTA serves as a volunteer steward of the CT as well as other paddling trails statewide. Retail copies of the $16.95 guidebook can be purchased directly from the group's website, FloridaPaddlingTrails.com and on Amazon.com.


Increasing "Comfort Zones" for Trail Users

Durable, eco-friendly, portable restroom is ideal amenity for long distance 

Tallahassee St Marks Comfort
Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail.

Several concrete, waterless comfort stations have recently been added to three of the state trails managed by the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT). Two units have been installed on the Blackwater Heritage State Trail in Milton and four stations were placed along the 16-mile Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail. In the near future, trail users who enjoy the General James A. Van Fleet State Trail, which runs through Sumter, Lake and Polk counties, will be very pleased to see two units installed along this 29-mile rail-trail. 


Comfort Station
Blackwater Heritage State Trail 

The need for more restrooms along the trails is one of the most common requests received by OGT. This type of comfort station can be installed in remote areas to shorten distances between facilities. These vault style restrooms use both convection and solar powered, fan forced ventilation. They do not require water or electricity and are stocked with hand sanitizer. The cost for each unit is approximately 20% of the cost of a traditional public restroom, though some trail users will view it as truly priceless!


Biking the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail End-to-End

Through the eyes of two seasoned, enthusiastic cyclists


Two solo cyclists who traveled the full, 106 miles of the Florida Overseas Heritage Trail (FKOHT) this winter, have each documented their trips for an interesting mix of practical tips and memorable highlights. One chose to share his journey primarily through pictures; the other recounted his experience in writing. Together, the firsthand observations of these enthusiastic cyclists give future trail users and travelers a well-rounded view of the FKOHT.


John Quirk
John Quirk, as he celebrates his one-day ride across the entire, 106-mile Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.

John Quirk, of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, rode the entire FKOHT in only one day, leaving Key Largo at 6:45 a.m., arriving in Key West at 3:45 p.m. The photo journal he created during his express, "Tour de Conch" trip gives viewers a great perspective of the FKOHT from end to end--an especially interesting photo essay for those who have never seen this developing Trail and may want to someday travel it themselves. Along with clear views of the historic railroad bridges, signs and scenery along the way, John even captured photos of the areas where it's necessary to travel the road shoulders, pending the construction of more trail. Viewers who explore John's photo journal will enjoy his informative, funny captions and occasional, candid "self-portraits."


Mike Miller
Mike Miller rode the entire FKOHT from Key West to Key Largo, with stops at some of the Keys' famous sites.

Mike Miller, came from Spokane, Washington to ride the FKOHT in the opposite direction from Key West to Key Largo and chose to travel it over two days, occasionally joining his wife in visiting tourist attractions. Mike shared practical information regarding the Keys climate, best clothing to wear and the need for hydrating breaks. Making a strong case for wearing bike helmets, Mike wrote:  "When I got back home I found out that a friend was involved in a car/bicycle accident where the helmet saved his life. Life is too precious to not wear a helmet." 


While stopping for cool-downs, Mike felt fortunate to spot a deer at the Key Deer Refuge and enjoyed a break at Bahia Honda State Park. Having missed the company of other cyclists on the long stretches, Mike was glad to meet and visit with another solo cyclist, a Bostonian who had begun his five-day journey at Ft. Myers. Another long break came at lunch when he and his wife found themselves charmed by a local restaurant. Mike went on to review his overall experience of the FKOHT "...as one of my best rides!"


Many thanks to both John Quirk and Mike Miller for sharing the highlights and insider tips from their journeys. For more information on the FKOHT, visit FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com and check out the March issue of Trail Talk for news and a calendar of upcoming events.



Calendar Highlights


April 7, 2011
Public Meetings on Nature Coast State Trail Management Plan Update
Fanning Springs State Park
A proposed draft update to the Nature Coast State Trail Management Plan will be discussed in a general public meeting at 10 a.m. and an advisory group meeting at 1:30 p.m. Both meetings are open to the public. For more information or to view a copy of the draft management plan, see FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com.


April 9, 2011
4th Annual Fanning Springs Garden Festival
Fanning Springs State Park
Learn the best techniques at workshops on irrigation, plant fertilization and pest management. See demonstrations on xeriscaping and enjoy guided walks showcasing native landscaping in the park. Native and ornamental plant sales will be offered as well as food, children's games and live music--plus drawings for free plants and prizes! For more information, visit FloridaStateParks.org.


April 14-17, 2011
Tallahassee, FL
Designed to promote active living as an enhancement to the lives of people with disabilities, this is the premier event sponsored by the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association (FDOA). SportsAbility provides first hand access to resources and demonstrations of activities designed to encourage participation regardless of age or ability level. For more information on the many indoor and outdoor activities featured over this weekend, see fdoa.org.

April 16, 2011
7th Annual Katie Ride for Life
Amelia Island, FL
Join the hundreds of cyclists who come out each year to help raise awareness and funds for organ donation in cycling through beautiful Northeast Florida. With distances of 7, 18, 36, 62 or 100 miles to choose from, this is a fully supported event for riders of all levels. With a reputation for being breathtaking, this course is flat and scenic, taking riders along many islands and waterways. There is also a 5K or 10K walk for non-cycling members of the party. Visit katierideforlife.org for complete details. Online registration is preferred, however, onsite registration is available on the morning of the event. 
April 16, 2011
Earth Day
Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys
Now in its 16th year, this Earth Day celebration will feature puppet shows, a sand sculpture building contest, marine life touch tanks, children's activities, a cookout, live music and environmental exhibits and displays. Entrance to the park is free. For more information, visit FloridaStateParks.org.


April 30, 2011
Paddlers Environmental Toolkit Training
Florida Keys
Sponsored by the Florida Paddling Trails Association (FPTA) and Paradise Paddlers, this class is designed to teach paddlers to "recognize environmental problems and learn how to solve the small ones and report the large ones." Half the day will be an off-water discussion of the concepts followed by a 3-hour paddle after lunch (bring your own kayak). Cost is $25 and includes a one-year membership in the FPTA as well as some take-home resources. Space is limited. For more information, contact Monica Woll at (305) 853-3571 or email Monica.Woll@dep.state.fl.us.


May 6, 2011
Withlacoochee Rails to Trails Volunteer Appreciation Picnic and Membership Meeting
Inverness, FL
A Membership Meeting and Volunteer Appreciation Picnic will be held at the Withlacoochee State Trail, Apopka Trailhead in Inverness. The meeting will include installation of incoming officers and an award presentation. A picnic lunch will be provided for all members and trail volunteers, who are welcome to bring a dish to share. (Members, please note that there will be no regularly scheduled membership meeting in May.) For more information, please call Linda Reiland at (352) 637-6191.

May 21, June 4, 2011
Flagler Bike Tour
Key West
See historic points of interest associated with railroad magnate Henry Flagler in a 6-7 mile bicycling tour hosted by the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. Tour is limited to 15 cyclists and is free except for (optional) admission to attractions ($8). Registration is required by 5 p.m. on the Friday before the event. For registration and details, contact Cristina Lindley at (305) 360-2532 or email Cristina.Lindley@dep.state.fl.us.


June 5, 2011
National Trails Day--Marathon Paddle-Pedal
Florida Keys
A "paddle" launching at 9 a.m. includes a three-hour exploration of the small hidden mangrove trails of Whiskey Creek. Bring plenty of water and snacks and your own kayak and PFD. The "pedal" begins at Crane Point Hammock at 1 p.m. for a 10-mile bike ride along the recently upgraded Marathon segment of the FKOHT. For more information, contact Monica Woll at (305) 853-3571 or email Monica.Woll@dep.state.fl.us.


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