Fall Greenways and Trails Newsletter

Florida Greenways and Trails Connections

The View from Central and South Florida

Katie Bernier

by Katie Bernier, OGT Regional Coordinator

I have the privilege of being the Central/South Florida Regional Coordinator for the Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT). My primary role is to provide support through trail coordination and planning to local stakeholders, as well as assisting with the promotion of outdoor recreation. Additionally, I coordinate the Florida Greenways and Trails Council and the Designation Program.

My region is very diverse, from the quiet, meandering Peace River and St. Lucie River Paddling Trails, to the busy, urban multi-use trails of Miami-Dade and Pinellas counties. There’s a recreational opportunity for every user! My region is also home to two Trail Towns, Dunedin and Everglades City. Dunedin is a trail hub and a gateway to the 250-mile Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail. Everglades City is unique in that it was the first paddling Trail Town to be recognized. Located along the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, the town is the ultimate destination for paddlers and adventure seekers.

We have many new and ongoing projects and initiatives that we are working on here at OGT, but I am most excited about my upcoming relocation to my region. Beginning in October, I’ll be based out of Highlands County and am looking forward to ample opportunities to meet with local and regional partners, as well as to spend more time on the trails!

The Underline: A Progressive Urban Trail

Underline Trail vision

Have you heard of the Underline? This progressive urban trail project is part of the Florida Greenways and Trails System. When complete, it will transform the land below Miami's Metrorail into a 10-mile linear park, urban trail and living art destination, complete with 4,000 native trees planted along its corridor. The project will run from Dadeland to Brickell. Groundbreaking for the first segment occurred last year. "There's really something for everyone," said Friends of the Underline founder Meg Daly.

Make Plans for Upcoming Conferences and Summits

Southeast East Coast Greenway Summit

It’s not too early to plan for winter and spring conferences and summits that relate to trails and outdoor recreation. These events are great places to network and to learn about all the inspirational initiatives going on around the state and country.

The first to put on your radar is the Wildlife Viewing & Nature Tourism Academy in Fort Walton Beach on February 17-21, 2020. Sponsored by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, this is a hands-on training aimed at professionals and associated nonprofit groups that focus on wildlife diversity, wildlife viewing and nature tourism.

Be sure to mark your 2020 calendars for back-to-back conferences in Titusville: the Florida Bike Tourism Conference on March 17-18, sponsored by Bike Florida, and the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Summit on March 19-20, sponsored by the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance. The OGT online calendar will be updated with links when they are available.

The East Coast Greenway Alliance is sponsoring the Southeast Greenways & Trails Summit in Jacksonville on April 1-4. Besides high-caliber presenters and keynote speakers, several outdoor trail events in the Jacksonville region will be offered. And if you’re really feeling adventurous, buy your ticket to Nepal for the Eighth World Trails Conference on September 2-5, 2020, sponsored by the World Trails Network!

OGT's New GIS Coordinator

Justin Baldwin with bike

Justin Baldwin is OGT’s new GIS Coordinator. He grew up in the Adirondack mountains of Upstate New York where he developed a passion for nature and outdoor recreation. He received his bachelor’s degree in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee and it was during this time that his love for trails and greenways developed as he rode his bicycle to and from work and class every day, something he continues to do.

Justin is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University. His study interests include GIS planning and planning for bicycle/pedestrian friendly communities. He enjoys bicycling, camping, traveling with his family and trail running, of which he has completed several 50k events in the Southern Appalachians. His wife, Brigitte, and two kids, Jonah and Layla, live with him in Tallahassee.

Five-year Recreation Plan Approved

SCORP cover

The National Park Service has approved Florida's Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).

Recreation providers, planners, public officials and citizens can use SCORP as a reference tool to improve recreation opportunities for Florida residents and visitors.

Fall 2019

October is Greenways and Trails Month!

Dean Rogers admires large live oak along Cadillac Trail near Tallahassee, by  Doug Alderson

As October rolls around, a touch of fall can be felt in the air — perfect for getting outdoors!

Florida has more than 9,200 miles of hiking, bicycling, equestrian and shared-use trails and over 4,000 miles of paddling trails that provide enormous benefits for Florida’s economy, tourism, and the health of visitors and residents.

Long-distance trails in the state include the 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, the 1,300-mile Florida National Scenic Trail, and the longest segment of the East Coast Greenway, an ambitious national trail project extending from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida. These trails attract paddlers, hikers and cyclists from around the country and world.

October is brimming with statewide recreational activities, appealing to the varied interests of Florida’s residents and guests.

Celebrate the reopening of the Florida National Scenic Trail through Suwannee River State Park with the five-mile Big Oak Hike on Friday, October 4.

Paddle Florida’s Suwannee River Wilderness Trail Adventure on October 18-23 is the first of several fall paddling events.

The Rails to Trails of the Withlacoochee Bike Ride occurs October 6 in Inverness on the Withlacoochee State Trail; the Santos Fall Epic on October 26 is a leisurely bike ride through part of the Cross Florida Greenway; and the Gainesville Cycling Festival kicks off October 26-27.

Various trail-related events are being offered at Florida State Parks throughout the month, including fall wildflower and butterfly walks. To find an extended list of activities occurring in an area near you, explore the Florida State Parks events webpage.

And be sure to check out the Online Trail Calendar on the Office of Greenways and Trails website for more trail offerings.

Outdoor Recreation Makes Us Healthier and Happier

children on bicycles at Santos on Cross Florida Greenway, by John Moran

by Eric Draper, Florida State Parks Director

On a recent bike ride on the Palatka-to-Lake Butler State Trail, I saw a diverse group of trail users enjoying fresh air and outdoor exercise. A young parent pushing a stroller reminded me of the importance of teaching our children to make fitness a part of their lives.

Outdoor activity has a tremendous positive impact on our health, fitness and emotional well-being. That’s why the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Recreation and Parks continues to strengthen its support of outdoor recreation for public health and fitness across the state. This means going beyond state parks and trails and into communities to inspire people to get active outdoors. For example, the Outdoor Florida app now gives anyone with a smartphone or computer the ability to search for recreation opportunities on public lands statewide.

Because we want to help outdoor advocates and local trail champions spread the message about the many benefits of trails, DEP is planning an initiative that will promote outdoor recreation online and in print. The initiative also will include advocacy training resources and a statewide summit in 2020.  

A big part of making the case for outdoor recreation is showing leaders how spending time outdoors is already a favorite activity for most Floridians. Our research shows that outdoor recreation is important to nine in 10 residents. County-level studies of recreation preferences and economic benefits guide the new State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.

We know that there is great demand for opportunities for walking, wildlife viewing, cycling and hiking in Florida, and trails are among the top four community amenities sought by homeowners of all ages. When communities invest in infrastructure for bicycling and other outdoor activities, it pays big dividends for the enjoyment and health of residents and visitors, and for local and state economies.

I’m proud to live in a state with more than 13,600 parks and recreation areas and 9,000 miles of multi-use trails. This system is growing, and our mission is to inspire and equip people to head outdoors and enjoy these resources to the fullest.

Using Trail Events as Fundraising Ventures

The 2016 RiverTrek group readies to leave Chattahoochee on the Apalachicola River, by Doug Alderson

by Doug Alderson

From bike races to kayak poker runs, many nonprofit groups use trail events as fun opportunities to raise funds. Most of these events involve the participant paying an upfront registration fee, and additional funds are often raised through the sale of T-shirts, food and other items. But the Apalachicola Riverkeeper has taken trail event fundraising to a new level.

In 2007 and 2008, the Riverkeeper organized group kayaking trips down the entire Apalachicola River from Lake Seminole to Apalachicola. These 107-mile trips featured educational presentations by scientists, activists, commercial fishermen and timber men. Inspired by these trips, Earl Morrogh, then a volunteer on the Riverkeeper board of directors, added a fundraising component. He called it RiverTrek, and the idea was for paddlers to solicit sponsors in a type of paddle-a-thon to raise funds for the Riverkeeper. The first few trips raised a few thousand dollars each year, but as other volunteer coordinators were brought in and the groups became larger and more focused, significant funds were raised for the Riverkeeper to the tune of $50,000 to $60,000 per year.

This year, 16 paddlers and their volunteer support crew are gearing up for RiverTrek on October 8-12. There is a near equal mix of men and women, millennials and baby boomers, and they hail from Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Some have completed the trek several times, while others are new to the experience.

“Our advocacy and education programs are supported through RiverTrek donations,” said Apalachicola Riverkeeper Georgia Ackerman, “and the community awareness-raising aspect of RiverTrek is tremendous. The paddlers are all out talking to their respective neighbors, colleagues and friends about the importance of the Apalachicola River and Bay.”

Volunteer fundraising efforts have included events at breweries, neighborhood and community meet-and-greet gatherings, an ice-cream social, fish fry and bingo party. Each paddler is asked to raise at least $1,000, but as with every RiverTrek, a friendly competition has begun as to who can raise the most money. This year, first-time RiverTrekker Lee Rigby of Woodville, Florida, a leader in the elevator business, has raised an all-time individual high of $12,000.

For Britney Moore, a planning coordinator with OGT, RiverTrek has been an annual tradition for five years. “Since October is officially Florida’s Greenways & Trails Month, I thought what better way to promote trails than to gain firsthand knowledge of one of our most treasured resources so I can share with others the importance of protecting and conserving our natural environment,” she said.