Spring 2012 Connections DRP Title

Wildflower banner photo

                       Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Division of Recreation and Parks 
Office of Greenways and Trails 


In This Issue of Connections:
A First Step Toward Florida's Longest Rail-Trail
M-Path Extension Connects South Florida Trails
Growing the Florida East Coast Greenway--A Free Webinar
Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition Moves Into North Florida
Florida Greenways and Trails System--2012 Plan
National Water Trails System Announced
Paddle Florida Leads Ochlockonee River Trip
Florida National Scenic Trail--The 5-Year Plan
North Florida Welcomes Endurance Race Runners
Scout's Trail Project is A Win-Win
Ride-Roll-Run Relay Captured on Video
Seeing Sarasota County in the Annual Tour de Parks

First Ribbon-Cutting for the East Central Regional Rail-Trail
Volusia County launches inaugural segment.

E. Central Regional Rail-Trail Bike RideThe Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) joined with Volusia County and other partners to celebrate the grand opening of the initial segment of the East Coast Regional Rail-Trail (ECRRT) on Feb. 25, 2012. The long-awaited, first phase of this multi-use, recreational trail officially opened to the public as area citizens, representatives from state and regional agencies and city and county officials, as well as trail advocacy groups, all came out to celebrate the realization of a major accomplishment. Among the speakers for the ribbon cutting event were Volusia County Commissioner Pat Northey, Keith Laughlin, President of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and Paul Haydt, Vice Chair of the East Coast Greenway Board of Trustees.

The ECRRT, located in Volusia and Brevard counties, was purchased by the state from the Florida East Coast Railway L.L.C. in December 2007, with Florida Forever funding allocated for the Florida Greenways and Trails Acquisition Program. The 51-mile corridor is the longest rail parcel ever acquired by the state. Envisioning this strategically located corridor as the conduit for a developing trail network on Florida's East Coast, this acquisition was a collaborative effort by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the East Central Regional Planning Council, the counties and the state. Volusia and Brevard counties are developing and managing the ECRRT on behalf of the state.

Accessible from Green Spring Park, the newly opened trail segment is 5.7 miles long, 12-foot-wide, paved and landscaped. Outdoor recreationists of all types will enjoy navigating this beautiful trail which includes a scenic boardwalk. "Volusia County has taken a significant first step toward realizing this corridor's potential as a regional economic engine," said Jim Wood, Chief, DEP Office of Greenways and Trails, Division of Recreation and Parks. "As reflected in the marketing approach of Titusville's Chamber of Commerce, there is great value in nature-based tourism and Brevard County plans to take the next step in developing this regional resource."

Three additional segments of the ECRRT are scheduled to be under construction this summer: one in the city of Edgewater, one in Titusville and the other will connect to the existing segment in Volusia County and feature a pedestrian bridge crossing State Road 415. 

Located within one of Florida's most heavily populated and highly visited regions, the ECRRT forms part of two major long-distance trail corridors, the 260-mile St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop and the East Coast Greenway, which will ultimately extend 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida. The ECRRT was also recently selected by the U.S. Department of Interior for inclusion in the America's Great Outdoors initiative which targets 100 (two per state) of the country's most promising projects designed to protect special places and increase access to outdoor spaces.

Volusia County's opening segment of the ECRRT is a key, inaugural element of the ever-expanding, central Florida trail matrix that will be one to watch, support and, undoubtedly, travel. 
Making Connections
South Florida trail connectivity is cause for celebration.
M-Path Extension Bridge
The M-Path extension features a bicycle-pedestrian bridge. Photo courtesy of Miami-Dade Transit.
Trail users and commuters in the Miami-Dade area recently celebrated the extension of the popular, multi-use M-Path trail with the official opening of a new 1.2-mile section of trail and a 200-foot, bicycle-pedestrian bridge over the Snapper Creek Expressway. The extension connects the southern section of the M-Path with the South Dade Trail, to create a 30-mile-long paved path from downtown Miami to Florida City under the Metrorail elevated rail line and along the South Miami-Dade Busway transit facilities.  
M-Path Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Local officials joined community and regional representatives in a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on
April 5, 2012 at the Dadeland North Metrorail Station.
The M-Path extension establishes a vital link between alternative transportation routes in the Miami-Dade and South Florida region. Funded through the federal Transportation Enhancement Program and augmented by federal stimulus funding, this extension provides trail users and commuters with safe access to rail and bus transportation facilities in the metro Miami area and also serves as a pathway to more rural areas of South Florida. This connectivity promotes two-way travel between urban and rural areas, offering access to businesses and services, as well as a healthy recreational venue.

The M-Path and South Miami-Dade Busway "trails-with-transit" are along the right-of-way of the former Florida East Coast Railroad. The paths connect directly to eight Metrorail Stations and 56 Busway stations, as well as the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, University of Miami and downtown South Miami. Several bike shops are nearby. The areas around the trail range from heavily urbanized to suburban to rural, and are all influenced by the nearby US Highway 1. The M-Path and South Dade Trail have been designated as part of the East Coast Greenway's system of trails between Key West and Maine.

"Growing the Florida East Coast Greenway  

for Transportation, Tourism and Health"

Free webinar hosted by the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails and the East Coast Greenway Alliance.   

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hollywood Beach Broadwalk
Hollywood Broadwalk, Florida East Coast Greenway
Photo by Judy Erickson

10-11 a.m. (EDT) 

A must for everyone who works closely with trails, this free, one-hour webinar will focus on the East Coast Greenway and its contribution to Florida's national reputation as the inaugural recipient of American Trails' Best Trails State award. The webinar will address:

● The economic benefits and impacts of trails in communities
● How multi-modal transportation systems advance safe, efficient travel, recreation and tourism
● The advantages to connecting trails locally, regionally and nationally
● How East Coast communities can support and become involved with the Greenway

Panelists will share valuable information about trail-related hot topics. Participants will learn how to benefit from helping close East Coast Greenway gaps through their cities and have the opportunity to ask many questions.

Reserve your Webinar seat now at: https://www2.gotomeeting.com/register/525746362. For more information, see FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com or call the Office of Greenways and Trails,  (850) 245-2052.

Showcasing the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition
The team will share highlights of their experiences on April 16 as they travel through North Florida.

In January 2012, a photographer, a bear biologist, a conservationist and a filmmaker began a journey of 1,000 miles in 100 days, designed to bring awareness to the need for a statewide network of connected natural areas throughout Florida. Photographer Carlton Ward Jr., biologist Joe Guthrie, conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt and documentary filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus began their Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition in Everglades National Park and will soon reach their final destination of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia.

The goal of the expedition is to raise awareness of the need--and the narrow window of opportunity--for connecting the natural areas that will preserve Florida's clean air and water and protect the habitats of diverse wildlife species, including the threatened Florida black bear and endangered Florida panther. Having already traveled through and around many ecosystems and well-known landmarks, such as Babcock Ranch, Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and the St. Johns River, the team has documented Florida's diverse habitats through firsthand observation and expert photography and videography.

As the expedition team arrives at the Osceola National Forest, they will join with representatives of several partnering agencies and organizations to share notes from their experiences and underscore the key messages that both inspired and evolved through this journey. Interested members of the media and the public are invited to attend the program which is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday, April 16, 2012 at the Olustee Depot Visitor Center, Osceola National Forest.

2012 Florida Greenways and Trails System Plan
The first phase of the state trails system update is underway.

The Florida Greenways and Trails Council (FGTC) met in Tallahassee on March 1, 2012 and approved the schedule and process for developing the 2012 Florida Greenways and Trails System (FGTS) Plan. Over the coming months, the DEP Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT) will be moving forward with the FGTS plan in coordination with the FGTC, federal, state and regional agencies; counties and cities; non-profit organizations; the private sector; and the citizens of Florida.

The FGTS Plan establishes the vision for implementing a connected statewide system of greenways and trails for recreation, conservation, alternative transportation, healthy lifestyles, a vibrant economy and a high quality of life. The original FGTS Plan was completed in 1998 and adopted by the Florida Legislature in 1999, laying the groundwork for many programs, projects and initiatives that exist today. For background and an overview of the schedule for developing the current plan, visit the OGT website and view the 2012 Florida Greenways and Trails System Plan. There will be opportunities for public input, including a series of public workshops planned for Fall 2012 (dates and locations to be announced).

National Water Trails System Announced
Paddling trails are highlighted as national recreational treasures.

Kayaks on Suwannee Rive Wilderness Trail
Suwannee River Wilderness Trail
Branford, Florida
Photo by Doug Alderson

On March 4, 2012, the U.S. Department of Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, introduced the National Water Trails System, a new network intended to increase access to water-based outdoor recreation, encourage community stewardship of local waterways and promote tourism that fuels local economies. Salazar signed a Secretarial Order that establishes national water trails as a class of national recreational trails under the National Trails System Act of 1968.

"Rivers, lakes, and other waterways are the lifeblood of our communities, connecting us to our environment, our culture, our economy, and our way of life," Salazar said. "The new National Water Trail System will help fulfill President Obama's vision for healthy and accessible rivers as we work to restore and conserve our nation's treasured waterways."

Salazar announced that the Chattahoochee River Water Trail in Georgia is the first river to be designated as a National Water Trail under the new system. Florida will certainly submit several candidates in the near future.

On a related subject, OGT recently submitted information about the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail and the Peace River Paddling Trail to American Rivers, an organization which is partnering with National Geographic to create Blue Trail GeoStories - a digital platform that integrates maps, experiences and engagement to build a shared sense of place and a community to sustain it. Take a look at a GeoStory of the James River in Virginia. The Blue Trail GeoStories platform will look similar and it will highlight the best blue trails nationwide. They are looking to highlight water trails that promote recreation, as well as protection and restoration efforts, have programs that get kids outdoors, and connect urban and rural areas to protected places like parks, forests and refuges. 

The 2nd Annual Dam to the Bay Paddling Trip
Exploring the Lower Ochlockonee River

Paddlers on Mack Slough
Paddlers on Mack Slough
Photo by Doug Alderson
Tornado warnings, fierce winds and sheets of rain greeted more than 30 kayakers and canoeists at Ed and Bernice's Fish Camp along Highway 20, twenty miles west of Tallahassee. The camp was the gathering point for Paddle Florida's second annual Dam to the Bay Paddle on the Ochlockonee River in early March--six days, 76 miles--and by first impressions, it would be a challenging trip. But favorable weather was in the forecast, and sure enough, the next morning was clear and blustery. The skies remained clear for the rest of the trip as paddlers enjoyed emerging spring colors and a swift current that carried them quickly to their destinations at public campgrounds along the river.
One point of interest along the way was the historic Langston Ferry site. The ferry ran from 1876 to 1929, in the days before the Highway 20 Bridge. People who approached from the west side of the river often blew a conch shell to alert the Langston family on the other side to bring the ferry boat. Charges ranged from a nickel to twenty cents, depending on the load size. The Stoutamire family manages the site and they have erected a covered bridge Methodist chapel across a side stream with memorial benches honoring family members who have passed. Appropriately, they have included a conch shell on a chain so guests can give the traditional horn blow for the ferry.

The Mack Landing Campground was the setting for the entertaining and edgy tunes of Wakulla County musician Grant Peeples. The non-profit Paddle Florida organization is known for providing musical entertainment and educational lectures at their evening camps. On this trip, paddlers also learned about water management, wetlands mitigation, bee keeping and other area paddling trails.

Approaching the white sand beaches of Bald Point State Park along the Gulf of Mexico on the last day, paddlers navigated a maze of oyster beds with their associated crying gulls and terns. Ospreys soared and fish popped. Salt air filled the southern breeze--an ideal place to end a six-day paddling journey from the dam to the bay.
Florida National Scenic Trail's 5-Year Strategic Plan
Coalition sets core goals and focuses on partnership

FNST Plan Cover GraphicThe U.S. Forest Service and the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) Coalition are pleased to  present the FNST 5-Year Strategic Plan which will be available in hard copy and online in mid-April 2012.  This is truly a landmark document for the Florida National Scenic Trail. For the first time since the inception of the original Comprehensive Plan of 1986, the U.S. Forest Service, as administrator of the FNST, has sat down with a team of landowners to thoughtfully, and deliberately, set goals for the Trail. The outcome has been to provide an overall strategic direction by which all partners in the FNST can focus their collaborative efforts and allocate resources to benefit both the Trail and the trail user.  This document is also significant in that it represents a new partnership model which more fully engages a diverse group of land managers who are connected to the Trail, reaching out to a myriad of federal, state, county, public and private entities. More information regarding the Florida National Scenic Trail, the Coalition and the Strategic Plan is available from the U. S. Forest Service

Iron Horse Endurance Race Attracts Winter Visitors  
For a hardy group of runners, North Florida feels like home.

Winner of Mens 100M Iron Horse Race
Daniel Seigers of New York (center) is congratulated on completing the men's 100-mile course with a record-breaking time of 15 hours:40 minutes.                     Photo by Chris Rodatz

Looking for a temperate climate and a challenging race in a beautiful place, 131 runners, representing 20 states and Canada, recently came to north Florida for the 7th annual Iron Horse Endurance Runs. The Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail (PLBST) and parts of the Etoniah Creek State Forest served as the venue for the race held on Feb. 18, 2012. The race's scenic rural route, the (very) warm weather and an enthusiastic welcome by the local communities gave the runners a memorable experience.



The event kicked off at 7 a.m. with pleasantly cool temps. As the day wore on, however, temps reached into the 70s with near 100% humidity, bringing frequent calls for ice as over 50% of the 100-mile field dropped back to one of the shorter distances. Fortunately, there was no rain and the nights were cool. The trail was in excellent condition, thanks to PLBST Manager, Byron Feagle, who was instrumental in having the 320-foot, Bardin trestle repaired to provide for a safer crossing. Though most of the race route is run on an unpaved, rustic surface, a section of the PLBST in this area is now paved, allowing for faster times this year. Aid stations were manned by Keystone Heights High School students, supervised by Ms. Meri Lin Piantanida and Middleburg High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps students, directed by Cmdr. Pat Thurman.


Daniel Seigers of New York broke the men's 100-mile course record in a time of 15:40. The top female runner was Jacksonville's Amy Costa, finishing with a time of 21:01. Both 50-mile records fell as Steven Najiar, Longwood, FL, made the distance in 6:47 and Jennifer Vogel of Jacksonville completed it in 7 hrs. Andrew Berster, Sarasota, FL, won the men's 100 Km with a time of 10:37, while Susan Allen, Dawsonville, GA, came in at 11:14 to win the women's race.


A total of 121 runners completed the race and were treated, with their families, to hamburgers, brats and beverages around the ever-present burn barrels. The party atmosphere has become a signature for this event and everyone is made to feel a part of the Iron Horse family of runners. Much of the credit for this hospitality goes to the volunteers, without whom this race could not be held, and to the town of Florahome and the Florahome United Methodist Church, as well as the DEP's Division of Recreation and Parks, which maintains and continues to work with the Florida Department of Transportation in developing the PLBST for the enjoyment of all.


Community Benefits from Scout's Stewardship
Aspiring Eagle Scout reclaims the hidden treasure of a local trail.

Sign work for Hidden Ponds Trail
Andrew Stahl (far right) used a creative technique to refinish and enhance the signage throughout the trail.
Hidden Ponds Trail, adjacent to the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Building in Tallahassee, recently received some much-needed improvements, thanks to 15-year-old Andrew Stahl, who conducted this trail renovation effort as an Eagle Scout project. The project included repairing and repainting all of the trail signs, for which Andrew used a creative wood-burning technique to achieve an inexpensive yet attractive rustic appearance. Also, a substantial amount of debris and litter had to be removed from the trail and its two ponds--enough to fill a 20-foot trailer! In addition to repairing and replacing damaged wood on signs and picnic tables, Andrew fully constructed an 8-foot picnic table which now stands beside the ponds. He finished off this major project by refurbishing the trailhead kiosk and ensuring that the trail was cleared of overgrowth.
Eagle Scout-Andrew Stahl
Andrew now proudly wears an Eagle Scout badge, earned, in part, through his renovation of Hidden Ponds Trail.
While working on site, Andrew was pleased to receive positive comments from several trail users who enjoy this wooded trail for lunch breaks and weekend exercise. Hidden Ponds Trail is now a much more accessible venue for healthy, outdoor experiences, thanks to Andrew, and congratulations are due, as well. Andrew achieved his Eagle Scout ranking in time to be the first in his troop to receive the special centennial year badge! Andrew's accomplishment is an inspiration and a great example of a "win-win" effort as Scouts--both individually and as troops--can and do help support Florida's parks and trails throughout the state.


6th Annual Ride-Roll-Run Relay
Participants enjoyed a beautiful Spring day on the Cross Florida Greenway.

Ride-Roll-Run Relay exchangeCongratulations to all the volunteers and participants who helped make the Cross Florida Greenway's Annual Ride-Roll-Run Relay a successful fundraiser for the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation, Inc. In this friendly and innovative type of competition, relay teams composed of one horseback rider, one mountain biker and one trail runner race in sequence along the Greenway's trails near the Land Bridge. This race format is an original concept that inspires harmony among different types of trail users. Each year new features are being added to the program and next year will be the "Lucky 7th," so look for the luck--and the fun--to continue to grow.

Thanks to volunteers Mike Pierannunzi and his son Gabriel, Jack Steer and Bob Jones, you can catch highlights of this year's Ride-Roll-Run on YouTube. Special thanks to Gabriel for capturing the video and setting it to music. Enjoy...and plan to be there next year...March 23, 2013!

Trailing Along in the Annual Tour de Parks
Safe traveling was the watchword of the day.
Tour De Parks senior cyclists
Ready to roll---74 of this year's Tour de Parks cyclists were
in the age 75 and over category.

The 4th Annual Tour de Parks Ride was an outstanding Sarasota County event again this year, living up to its name by featuring 20, 35 and 65-mile bicycle rides on a route that passed by, or through, 26 different city, county and state parks. Hosted by Friends of the Legacy Trail (FLT), a total of 554 cyclists, ranging in age from 8 to 84, participated in the ride held on March 25, 2012.

The Tour de Parks showcases the county's wealth of recreational resources--there is so much to see and enjoy!  
Safety was the key message of the event.
Helmets were required and cyclists were provided with t-shirts that read "Be Courteous. It's Contagious"--the latest in a series of FLT "De-Signer" t-shirts designed to increase awareness of trail safety practices. Kudos to the FLT volunteers who produce this increasingly popular annual event and who work so creatively and consistently to promote safe trail use.

Photos by J L Dumaine,
Courtesy of Friends of The Legacy Trail 

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