Office of Greenways and Trails - 2014 Winter Connections Newsletter

Florida Greenways and Trails Connections

Getting the Best from your Travels: Online Guide Coming Soon

The Office of Greenways and Trails is in the process of developing an online land and paddling trails guide.

Trail enthusiasts will have access to a plethora of trail information that’s easy to navigate and understand. The goal is to lessen the confusion and frustration of having to wade through unwanted information and ornate ads, that can sometimes be a deterrent on other sites. Offering the online guide will hopefully alleviate the need for users to surf multiple websites.

The Northwest and Northeast district data is now available. Three more regions, the Central, Southwest and Southeast, are being developed and will be accessible soon.

Visit the Trail Guide portal at to chart your next trail trip.


Bridge Installation Closes Gap between Greenway and Trail


The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Recreational Trails Program joined with members from the city of Tallahassee and Leon County’s Recreation and Parks Departments, on Jan 22, to observe the installation of a pedestrian bridge adjoining the city's Lafayette Heritage Trail with the county’s J.R. Alford Arm Greenway. The greenway, a Trust for Public Land property, was acquired in 2001 under the Florida Greenways and Trails Acquisition Program.

The newly positioned overpass, a critical connection point, literally bridged the gap that kept the two neighboring properties divided for years. The overpass, which crosses over an active CSX railway, creates a safe route for users traveling through the adjacent properties.

The installation, part of a $1.3 million partnership project between the city, the county and the trails program, which provided $250,000 in grant dollars to build a boardwalk and additional infrastructure leading up to the bridge, has been embraced and is a definite enhancement.

For more about the city's Lafayette Heritage Trail visit, For upcoming events planned at the J.R. Alford Arm Greenway and to view the recently approved 10-year Master Plan visit Leon County’s website.


North Florida Welcomes New Motorized Recreational Trailhead and Bridge

Apalachee Motorcycle Trailhead Ribbon Cutting

Nestled within the canopy of Leon County’s Apalachicola National Forest, rests a new trailhead and bridge project, a welcomed addition to Florida’s growing cache of motorized recreational trail facilities.

The Department of Environmental Protection in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service in Florida recently celebrated the grand opening of the Springhill Motorcycle Trailhead and Fisher Creek Bridge project.

The project, funded by a $933,900 grant from the Department’s Recreational Trails Program, supported by the off-road vehicle fuel tax dollars through the Federal Highway Administration, assisted the Forest Service with the development of the motorized trailhead, bridge and restructured OHV parking area.

The property’s reformed parking area now offers ample space, allowing for the safe offloading and loading of motorized vehicles and gear. The bridge offers users an unabridged ride between two previously unlinked systems, creating a comprehensive 111-mile course and the trailhead, the crowning jewel, completes the trinity. 

Recreational Trails Program Administrator, Alexandra Weiss, states “the Department is pleased to have partnered with the National Forests in Florida on this worthwhile project which will provide safe and enjoyable motorized recreational trails opportunities for years to come."

The Recreational Trails Program recently announced its upcoming March 17 through March 31, 2014, grant cycle, which will fund additional motorized, nonmotorized and diverse/multi-use projects on city, county, state and federal lands. Funds can be used to construct new trails, renovate and maintain existing trail sites, develop trailhead and trailside facilities as well as purchase equipment specifically used for trail maintenance.

Another $2.2 million will be available for prospective grant projects as the recreational trails staff look forward to collaborating with land managers and motorized trail users to develop the next generation of great trail projects such as the Springhill Motorcycle Trailhead and Fisher Creek Bridge.



Bike Events Generate Big Bucks

Florida bicycle events can have huge economic impacts. For example, Bike Florida’s seven-day “Forgotten Coast Tour” in 2012 resulted in an estimated economic impact of $533,883. Bike Florida does extensive participant surveys to develop economic reports for each of their seven-day annual spring tours which include up to 1,000 cyclists. Registration fees range from $200 to $490, depending on date registered and participation category. These tours utilize mostly back roads linking small towns and natural and historic points-of-interest. The calculation of economic impact included money spent by Bike Florida for such things as facility rentals, catering, truck rental and fuel, port-o-lets, security/law enforcement, and shuttle busses as well as money spent by participants coming to and from the event and during the event.

The 18-page report outlines tabulation methods and expense categories along with rider demographics. The average age of riders, for example, was 60 years old and the majority of participants have an annual household income between $25,000 and $125,000 per year. The overwhelming majority have a bachelor’s degree or higher. These indicators reveal clues as to the type of participants who participate in Florida’s multi-day cycling events. To view the complete report, and reports for other years, log onto

Shorter events, such as the one-day Tour de Felasco in Alachua County, resulted in an estimated $52,502 in economic impact in 2013 (Friends of San Felasco). Organizers of the annual Tour de Parks in Sarasota County estimate that it generates about $30,000 annually in economic impact (Friends of Legacy Trail), and the two-day 2013 Horrible Hundred event in the Clermont area amounted to around $32,000 in motel expenditures alone (Florida Freewheelers).

If you have economic data for your Florida event, whether it is for biking, hiking, equestrian or paddling, please send to Doug Alderson, Office of Greenways and Trails.


Calendar Highlights

Get a glimpse of the many activities scheduled throughout our beautiful state by visiting OGT's Community Calendar.

If you are aware of an upcoming greenway or trail activity in your community, consider sharing it with us. The Office of Greenways and Trails would like to include the event [trail ground breaking, grand opening, workshop, conference, webinar,  etc.] in our community calendar or possibly highlight the occasion in a future edition of Connections.


Office of Greenways and Trails Connections Newsletter.   For information, please contact Angie Bright at:

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways & Trails | 3900 Commonwealth Blvd. MS 795 | Tallahassee , FL  32399

Submissions Open for Greenways and Trails Acquisition Cycle

The Department of Environmental Protection is calling for proposals for the 2014 Land Acquisition Funding Cycle under the Florida Greenways and Trails Acquisition Program. This program is funded through the sale of bonds authorized under the Florida Forever Act. Approximately $2.5 million is available for this current acquisition cycle.

“The department is fortunate to be able to offer this acquisition funding support to assist communities throughout Florida. This opportunity could not have come at a more perfect time”, explained the Office of Greenways and Trails Chief, Samantha Browne. The allocation will assist with closing the gaps within the Florida Greenways and Trails Network as envisioned, emphasized and laid-out in the 2013-2017 Florida Greenways and Trails Systems Plan (Plan).

The Plan, applications for the 2014 funding cycle, the  required forms and a copy of the rule containing detailed program requisites are available on OGT's Acquisition Program webpage. You may also request copies by calling 850-245-2052 or writing to the Office of Greenways and Trails at: Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways and Trails, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd., MS 795, Tallahassee, FL 32399-3000. Applications must be received by close of business April 25, 2014.


Trail Council Approves Top Tier Gap Projects 

The 2013-2017 Florida Greenways and Trails System Plan outlines OGT’s vision for advancing Florida’s economy, tourism, health, alternative transportation, recreation, conservation and quality of life. Last year, OGT planners, Marsha Rickman and Robin Birdsong, fulfilled a key component of that plan by teaming with partners from local governments, municipal planning organizations and other interested parties to identify and evaluate gaps within the Priority Trails Network.

On Dec. 4, 2013, the Florida Greenways and Trails Council reviewed and discussed the recommended Priority Trails Network Top Tier Gap Projects. The spreadsheet matrix and statewide maps reflecting the top tier projects were approved.

The result of this work will help to target resources and funding to close key trail gaps in the near future.

Background details and additional information, including the top tier gap maps, can be found on the Florida Greenways and Trails System Plan page of OGT’s website.


Florida Ecological Greenways Network Updated

The Florida panther and Florida black bear are two far-ranging animals that require intact wildlife corridors and natural landscapes to survive. The Florida Ecological Greenways Network helps to identify those resources and plan for future connectivity throughout the state. The FEGN guides the Office of Greenways and Trails' ecological greenway conservation efforts and is an important data layer used by decision-makers in purchasing conservation lands under Florida Forever and other state and regional land acquisition programs.
One of the goals of the state greenways plan is to update the FEGN base boundary and priorities every five years. Beginning in 2010, the Conservation Trust for Florida and the University of Florida received a State Wildlife Grant to conduct a comprehensive update of the FEGN. Dr. Tom Hoctor of the University of Florida’s Center for Landscape Conservation Planning worked with a technical advisory group to develop the new FEGN with updated and new statewide GIS data identifying biodiversity, water resource and landscape conservation priorities.

The new FEGN was completed in July 2013 and approved by the Florida Greenways and Trails Council in Dec. 2013. Major changes in the new version of the FEGN include more emphasis on landscape and wildlife corridor conservation in south-central Florida, inclusion of intact landscapes from the coast to inland areas in anticipation of sea level rise, and consolidation of the former eight FEGN priority levels to six.

For detailed information and to get a closer look at the updates, visit OGT's Florida Greenways and Trails System webpage.  


African-American  Community Aims to Become Florida's Next Trail Town

Only in a car can you drop sharply away from high-speed four-lane SR 207 into Armstrong, a settlement where moms walk babies and folks chat on the narrow town road that abruptly ends in woods. Plop! The full juxtaposition.

Differently, trail walkers and bicyclists enter and leave through these same woods. But trails code users for different expectations, and the transition as we make our way to these woods is likely to be different, too.

Maybe on arriving in Armstrong we’ve already stopped at the historical sign that explains how the trail 130 years ago was the rail corridor for tapping the region’s farmlands. Fresh produce supplied the tables of the opulent hotels that revived ancient St. Augustine. Gullahs and Geechees from South Carolina came to work the fields. Some 300 to 400 of their descendants call Armstrong home today. “I know why you like it,” said Jasmin Hines, who talked to me recently while I waited for touring cyclists to show up in the recreational field of vendors and a blues band thinly covering the Allman Brothers from under a shed. “It’s the same as we like it. We’re all family here.”

Reviewing that tour, Ron Cunningham of Bike Florida later wrote, “I was a bit worried that, being the last day of our ride, some of our cyclists would be tempted to skip Armstrong and continue right on to St. Augustine. As it turned out, they were taken by how Armstrong residents welcomed us with open arms. The brunch was easily one of the high points of our seven-day ride.” That reception was anything but spontaneous.

The SEA Community – Spuds, Elkton, Armstrong – pursued Ron for months to make sure that brunch in Armstrong would be on Bike Florida’s tour.

That was almost a year after locals had celebrated the community’s 100th anniversary together with opening of the Palatka-St. Augustine State Trail. That day they hosted some 200 riders who showed up, including Donald Forgione, director of the Florida Park Service, trails and greenway and elected officials from the trail’s endpoint cities.

The trail today is paved and off-road for 8.5 miles. It’s part of the 260-mile St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop that’s almost halfway in place, getting built or funded, and already boasts signs of the East Coast Greenway posted in 2013 when the Greenway Alliance adopted the trail as part of its 3,000-mile Maine to Florida route.

“We started thinking how maybe Armstrong could achieve some economic development by catering to cyclists along the trail,” said SEA Community Executive Director Malinda Peeples. “People at the dedication sure had a good time.”

Now a year later, the North Florida Bicycle Club schedules Armstrong food stops for its weekend rides from St. Augustine. In May this year, new SunRail commuter trains will connect Orlando with the Loop where they meet at the Loop’s far southwest turn in DeBary. Trains will carry bikes free. Malinda is working to make sure that Armstrong is ready when cyclists come touring the Loop on their own, though Bike Florida also plans to develop train-trail tours.

Cyclists will soon find a paved path into the park and a trailhead. Malinda also plans to use income from cyclists who stop by to help match grants that will provide a welcome center with a café. There’s talk of a small grocery store, a community museum, and of getting a more frequent schedule by a mobile health clinic. In time, there are plans for overnight rooms.

Everything gets tested in late winter when Bike Florida will run its annual mass ride for about 1,000 cyclists along a northern portion of the Loop. That throng will stop in Armstrong its last morning. How does Armstrong plan to host numbers maybe three times its population? Malinda laughs. She rattles off the SEA Community’s relationship with the county’s helpful office of housing and community services, and with county parks and rec. The St. Johns County Fairgrounds sits just northeast on SR 207 if needed. "But we want our visitors to experience Armstrong itself. Our church has been here since the late 1800s. You know about black churches and farming families. We’re used to cooking big meals. Most of the year we feed migrants. Not that many in the Armstrong camp, but we sure know where the veggies are for a lot more.”

-Herb Hiller, Trail Enthusiast and Ecotourism Advocate


First Woman Completes Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail

CircumnavigationalTrail_JodiEller_First Woman_Complete

31-year-old Jodi Eller of St. Augustine, Florida became the first woman to complete the 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail that runs from Pensacola to Key West to the Georgia border. Eller paddled most of the trail in 2008 with husband Matt Keene, the first “thru paddler” of the trail and completed the remaining segments in late 2013.

“This trail is amazing,” she said. “It goes through so many different ecosystems. How the beaches change along the trail is just incredible. The trail made me a stronger paddler and it also redefined who I am in a way, bringing me back to the essence of being human. It’s a powerful experience to go through.”

Highlights of Eller’s trip included seeing a black bear cub in a tree along the Crooked River near Carrabelle, island hopping in the Indian River Lagoon and experiencing “perfect water conditions” for her last segment from Flamingo to Everglades City through Everglades National Park. Eller, a kayaking guide for St. Augustine EcoTours and an Environmental Science teacher at Flagler College, has this advice for paddlers interested in taking on the trail: “Do your research prior to your trip by reading everything on the trail website. Beginners paddling with friends can attempt this and build muscles and skill along the way, but it would be best to experience different types of water conditions first. Hopefully, more women will want to do it.”

Eller is the eleventh person to complete the entire Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail since its opening in 2008. Currently, two retired police officers from Charlotte, North Carolina, Marc DeLuca and Jim Windle, are paddling the entire trail. They are more than halfway through their journey. To read about the pairs experience check-out their online blog, or visit for more information on the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail.

-Doug Alderson, Paddling Trail Aficionado, Asstistant Bureau Chief, Office of Greenways and Trails