Office of Greenways and Trails Winter 2018 Connections Newsletter

Florida Greenways and Trails Connections

Online Trail Guide Launched

Florida Trail hikers along Lake Okeechobee, by Robert Coveny, FTA

Florida residents and visitors can now find all of their trail information in one location, thanks to a new online trail guide that boasts more than 1,300 trails. The interactive map features every known hiking, biking, paddling, equestrian, multi-use and motorized off-road trail in Florida.

The Florida Online Trail Guide was developed by the Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT) and includes 2,561 miles of hiking trails, 448 miles of biking trails, 601 miles of equestrian trails, 859 miles of motorized off-road trails, 4,962 miles of paddling trails and 1,657 miles of paved multi-use trails. 

Consolidating trail information that traditionally exists in dozens of locations into a single application makes it easier for Floridians and visitors to plan their outings and vacations.

Through a search engine, users can find trails near cities, towns, counties or major geographic features, or they can pan and zoom to explore trails anywhere in the state. Land trails on the map are indicated by brown lines and paddling trails by blue.

Updated Trail Guide Released

CT Guide cover for 6th edition

The sixth edition guidebook for the 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, commonly referred to as the CT, is now available for retail purchase. The 330-page guide, created by OGT, alleviates the need to download and print 26 different segment guides and other information from the OGT website. It includes the trail guide text and data book, trip planning and safety information, a list of recommended gear for a CT journey along with information about alternate routes in the Panhandle and Keys. Color maps must still be downloaded and printed from the OGT website

All proceeds from the sale of the guide go directly to the nonprofit Florida Paddling Trails Association or FPTA. The association serves as a volunteer steward of the trail as well as other paddling trails statewide.

Retail copies of the $16.95 guidebook can be purchased only on Amazon.

New Paddling Trails Designated

paddler on Ocheesee Pond by Doug Alderson

Ocheesee Pond in the Florida Panhandle offers a unique recreational opportunity for paddlers, with a proposed 5.2-mile loop paddling trail through a scenic cypress swamp. The Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department has marked an easy-to-follow trail with yellow blazes, and OGT staff assisted by making trail maps. The newly designated paddling trail, now part of the state system, provides a wealth of recreational, environmental, economic and educational opportunities.

Recreation uses include kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, boating, duck hunting and wildlife viewing. The pond is home to a vast array of birds, mammals and aquatic life. The pond was also the place where a supposed skunk ape was captured in 1884. The documented case turned out to be a wild man “entirely destitute of clothing, emaciated, and covered with a phenomenal growth of hair.”

Portions of the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River in Martin County were also designated. The Indian River Lagoon portion weaves along the Intracoastal Waterway from Jimmy Graham Park to Jensen Beach Causeway, and the southern fork of the St. Lucie River trail runs from Hosford Park to Manatee Cove Boat Ramp. The trails total 38 miles and are the result of a partnership between Martin County and the 27-80 Paddlers Club. 

Inaugural C2C Relay Planned

An inaugural Florida Coast 2 Coast Relay, a 200-mile running relay, will take place on the Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail on May 11-12, 2018. Male, female and co-ed teams of 12 will run day and night from Sand Point Park in Titusville to Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs. Up to 200 teams are expected. The run will highlight the tourism benefits the trail will bring to local communities. Once complete, the Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail will be a continuous 250-mile paved multi-use trail across Florida.

Proposed Miami Loop Gains National Attention

The proposed 225-mile Miami LOOP multi-use trail has gained national prominence through a feature article in the winter issue of Rails To Trails Magazine. The loop, a project of the Miami-Dade Trail Alliance and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, is 54 percent complete. More than 85 percent of the proposed corridor is publicly owned.

Legacy Trail News

With assistance from the Trust for Public Lands, Sarasota County recently purchased a nearly 3-mile segment of an abandoned rail corridor that will eventually extend the Legacy Trail. Construction for the extension is included in the 2022-2023 work plan through the Florida Department of Transportation's Shared-Use Nonmotorized (SUN) Trail Network. There is a move to include a county-wide voter referendum in November of 2018 to purchase the remaining 6.3 miles of the rail corridor to downtown Sarasota.

Pat Steed appreciated for Council Work

Park Service Director Eric Draper presents certificate of appreciation to Pat Steed

Florida Park Service Director Eric Draper with Pat Steed

Pat Steed, the Regional Planning Council representative on the Florida Greenways and Trails Council since 2012, was presented with a Director’s Service Award in recognition for her service on the council.  Pat was very instrumental in bringing together Polk, Highland, Glades and Okeechobee counties to identify a priority regional trail corridor. 

Winter 2018

2018 Greenways and Trails Maps Adopted

walker on red brick multi-use path near Milton, part of Old Spanish Trail, by Doug Alderson

A five mile red brick section of the Old Spanish Trail near Milton that is now a hiking and biking trail.

After several months of public input and 14 regional workshops held throughout the state by the Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT), the Florida Greenways and Trails Council adopted the 2018-2022 Maps for the Florida Greenways and Trails System at its Jan. 11 meeting in Tallahassee. Major changes and additions to the updated priority trails map include a new conceptual multi-use trail corridor along U.S. 90 across the state, which was originally part of the Old Spanish Trail from San Diego to St. Augustine. 

Several priority map additions were made in Northeast and Central Florida to create more regional trail networks and loops. In South Florida, an east-west route that skirts the southern rim of Lake Okeechobee is also included in the new plan. In Southeast Florida, several shorter additions will help create regional trail loops in highly urbanized areas. The proposed paved priority multi-use trails will be eligible for funding from the Shared-Use Nonmotorized (SUN) Trail Network program managed by the Florida Department of Transportation.

For paddlers, an expanded Perdido River Paddling Trail was adopted as a priority trail in recognition of efforts by the Nature Conservancy and the state of Alabama to add river camps along the upper and lower portions of the river.

Hiking trail changes include a planned re-route of the Florida National Scenic Trail from several back roads to an extensive network of public lands in the Suwannee River Valley and along the Big Bend Coast. A conceptual hiking trail through the Florida foothills along the Apalachicola River from Bristol to Chattahoochee was added to the opportunity trails map.

The Council also approved Dunedin as the first recognized Trail Town under the new Florida Trail Town Program managed by OGT.

Celebrate Florida Hiking and Biking Months

Bridge over Econ River by M. Timothy O'Keefe, FTA

Florida now has 2,545 miles of hiking trails open to the public in addition to 4,708 miles of shared-use trails available to hikers. Hiking opportunities in Florida include the 1,100-mile Florida National Scenic Trail, one of 11 congressionally designated National Scenic Trails in the United States. Florida celebrates Hiking Trails Month in February, when low humidity and few bugs make it a great time to be outside.

In March, the state celebrates Florida Bicycling Month. With Florida’s ever expanding system of mountain bike and paved off-road trails, opportunities are numerous for safe and adventurous cycling. Several cycling festivals are held throughout the state during the year, so be sure to peruse the Office of Greenways and Trails online calendar to find an event near you. 

Every Hike is a New Day

Eric Draper (far left), DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein (far right) and others on first day hike, by Michael Titus

Eric Draper (far left) walks with DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein (far right) and others on the 2018 First Day Hike at Maclay Gardens State Park.

Article by Eric Draper, Florida Park Service Director

On New Year’s Day I was one of the thousands around the nation who bundled up and joined companions for a state park first day hike. It was a joy to be with others and start the year using my legs to get around. I still remember the turns in the trail, the birds and the conversations.  Parks and trails are places where memories are made.

The hike I joined was one of more than 100 in Florida and many more around the nation. The online photos were fascinating – families and friends making the best of a new day.  My favorite was parents pushing a toddler in stroller through the woods. What a great way to combine the values of being outdoors and together. 

As a new director of the Florida State Parks, which includes the state’s expanding network of greenways and trails, I am excited to be part of the cause of getting people moving outside. I believe deeply that walking, cycling, running, swimming, padding and looking at nature are essential to human happiness.

I have also come to appreciate that Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection is committed to providing safe access to our parks and trails. A doctor once told me that a sports injury would cripple me for life.  In overcoming that dire prediction and the gloomy outlook, I learned the joy of movement even if it meant swinging along on crutches. My legs now get me around okay, but when I see other people whose mobility is limited enjoying our parks and trails, I am reminded of the healing power of nature and movement. Our trails allow us to make every hike a new day.

Local and State Initiatives Boost Trail Movement

Cyclist on Amelia Island Trail by Doug Alderson

Article by Brian Smith, Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation

The trail movement in Florida is gaining momentum. It was boosted by a Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail initiative to connect the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts by filling in gaps of existing trails. The foundation was involved in these initial activities that soon led to the Shared-Use Nonmotorized (SUN) Trail Network, a state-funded program.

These efforts have resulted in regional trail initiatives modeled after the Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail program. Funding comes not only from the state, but also from many local communities that are investing their resources in trails. The most recent example is the Pinellas County vote in November to extend its sales tax another 10 years, a referendum that passed with 83 percent approval. This tax extension will pay for the completion of the Pinellas Trail loop as well as a host of other community projects. Another example is the recently completed paved segment of the Cross Florida Greenway. That trail starts at the Santos trailhead, just south of Ocala, and proceeds for 15 miles west almost to State Road 200. There are many other examples we will talk about in future articles.

Several reasons account for such widespread support. Trails provide a safe environment for cyclists, walkers and skaters. In addition to recreational use, trails provide means of travel for many other purposes. Two-thirds of trail users in urban areas are making trips for work, school, shopping, social or other purposes.

Trails demonstrate their value in connecting communities; reducing greenhouse gas emissions; offering safe, economic ways for people to travel; and creating opportunities for outdoor exercise and enjoyment. 

It is an effort worthy of our continued support.

Shingle Creek Addition Approved

DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein visits Shingle Creek property

DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein (far left) visits the Shingle Creek property with county officials and trail users.

Governor Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved the acquisition of a 1.3-mile connection to the Shingle Creek Regional Trail (SCRT) on December 13. The 35.2-acre parcel, purchased through OGT's acquisition program, will join two distinct segments of the SCRT and will provide greater recreational access to the picturesque Shingle Creek Watershed and Lake Tohopekaliga. 

"Strategic acquisitions like this one are vital to making a positive impact on communities while preserving our natural resources," said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. "The department is looking forward to partnering with local communities to expand our trail connections to allow even more Floridians and visitors to enjoy Florida’s beautiful natural landscapes through our nationally renowned system of trails."