Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
In August 1997, “The Old Keys
Bridges Task Force” was appointed by Governor Lawton Chiles in
response to public demand to use the Keys’ historic bridges for
pedestrian and recreational activities. The recommendations of the
Task Force sparked support for funding from the state legislature to
keep the bridges open for public use and study the long-term
maintenance requirements associated with creating a trail along U.S. 1
for bicycle and pedestrian use. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage
Trail (FKOHT) would follow Henry Flagler’s historic railroad route.
Traveling U.S. 1 from Key Largo to Key West provides access to scenic,
environmental, recreational, cultural, historical and archaeological
resources that are unique and treasured by residents and visitors
alike. Feedback from the public supported the concept of a
well-planned, developed and maintained trail.
Keys (CFK), Inc. applied for and received a small “seed” grant from
the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to develop a
draft plan for one small segment of the Trail—Key West to Sugarloaf,
MM 0 to MM 20. CFK formed a partnership between FDEP, Florida
Department of Transportation (FDOT), Monroe County, the
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the National Park Service. A draft
plan was then developed through these partnerships and with the
professional services of Michael Design Associates—specialists in
trail design. This draft plan was discussed in two public meetings and
input from the public was incorporated into the revised draft.
Feedback received by way of many public meetings and presentations
strongly supported the concept of collaboration and teamwork.
Partnerships were essential to achieving the Florida State Scenic
Highway designation for U. S. 1. For overall planning of the FKOHT,
government agencies liked the idea of developing a cooperative vision.
The County received matching grants both from FDOT and FDEP to
complete a Trail Master Plan for the entire length of the Keys. Six
public meetings were held throughout the Keys in December, 1999 and
The FKOHT Master Plan, which included
recommendations for trail planning, implementation and management, was
approved in August, 2000. The Master Plan provided Monroe County and
its planning partners with a unified vision and common goals for
developing a valuable environmental, cultural and economic resource.
Working with the Monroe
County Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, the FDOT Five-Year Work Program
and the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail Master Plan, the FDEP
Office of Greenways & Trails agreed to design, construct and maintain
the Trail, beginning in 2002.
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