Winter Connections Newsletter, Office of Greenways and Trails



Palatka Receives Regional Award

Palatka officials with regional award

The Trail Town Committee for the city of Palatka, a recognized Florida Trail Town, was recently presented with the 2019 Regional Award for Excellence in Quality of Life by the Northeast Florida Regional Council during its leadership awards event. Palatka is an emerging trail hub boasting biking, hiking and paddling trails. These trails are certain to continue drawing more visitors to the area and drive economic development. Congratulations, Palatka! 

Outdoor Recreation and Diabetes

Two young people canoe in Florida Caverns State Park, FDEP

Did you know that more than 100 million adults in the United States are living with diabetes or prediabetes? Diabetes is when the body does not produce insulin (type 1) or use insulin properly (type 2). While some people may need medication or insulin to help manage diabetes, often resulting in high health care costs, many people can control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise. By providing numerous and varied outdoor recreation opportunities for Florida residents and visitors in state parks and other public lands, DEP is doing its part to help manage and reverse the devastating effects of diabetes. An article about accessible exercise and recreation on the Diabetes Self-Management website can help one get started.

Upcoming Paddlesports Events

Fall 2019 Florida paddlesports training class

The seventh annual Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail (CT) Reunion is set for April 17-19 at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park in Miami. The annual event is sponsored by the Florida Paddling Trails Association in cooperation with DEP's Office of Greenways and Trails. The weekend offers CT paddlers and supporters an opportunity to reunite, share stories, learn more about the trail and explore the region by kayak. The popular “Salty Tales from the Trail” event in which CT paddlers share their thrilling and humorous adventures runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 18, and is open to the public. 

The Florida’s Paddlesports Program trains people to be skilled leaders so paddling is safer and more enjoyable for everyone. The next training will take place April 28-May 1 at Lake Louisa State Park near Orlando with a limited class size. Cost is at the reduced rate of $150 per person with free cabin stays for the three nights. Contact Doug Alderson for more information.

For those who have already completed the course, a refresher course is planned for February 23 in St. Petersburg as part of the Florida Gulf Coast International Sea Kayak Symposium. Contact Wayne Douchkoff if interested.

Paddle Florida is planning  special trips to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The first one is an April 11-16 Perdido River and bay paddling trip near Pensacola. It will be closely followed by an Ochlockonee River paddling adventure April 18-22.

Long Key Tent Sites Reopen

As part of Hurricane Irma recovery efforts, four tent sites on Long Key State Park have reopened. Two of the sites (A & B) are reservable online through Reserve America. Sites C & D are first-come, first-served at the park. They will be used to accommodate long-distance hikers, bicycle riders and sea kayakers. Each site accommodates four people and is equipped with a grill, picnic table, hammock stand, and lantern/light pole with hooks. The restroom is 550 feet from the sites down a boardwalk.

The sites are mostly exposed to the sun right now, but vegetation will continue to grow back. As before, the park encourages the cyclist/hiker/paddler to make reservations online to guarantee a site, but park staff will do their best to accommodate the last-minute camper one day before. Long Key State Park is a key stopover for paddlers on the Florida Circumnavigational Trail, especially for those crossing or about to cross Florida Bay.

Winter 2019/2020

Get Ready for the Trail Trifecta!

East Coast Greenway rider by Doug Alderson

If you are a bicycle trail enthusiast, Titusville is the place to be March 18-21. Three separate trail events are converging together in this East Coast city to form the trail trifecta.

The first-ever statewide Cycling Tourism Conference kicks things off on Wednesday, March 18, with exciting presentations and breakout sessions. A wide range of topics will be covered, from fitness and bike safety to mobility and tourism. Dan Burden, touted as America's most recognized authority on walkability and bikeability, is the featured presenter.

The annual St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Summit follows on Thursday, March 19, as attendees focus on completing this 260-mile trail project in Northeast Florida. On Friday, March 20, the Office of Greenways and Trails will hold an action planning workshop to develop performance measures for the trail's completion. The culmination of the trifecta is on Saturday, March 21, when participants join in community trail rides.

And there is more. Two weeks after the trail trifecta, on April 1-4, the East Coast Greenway Alliance is holding its 2020 Southeast Greenways & Trails Summit in Jacksonville. Be part of the action! 

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, bike tourism accounts for an estimated $83 billion in trip-related spending while fostering a wide range of health and wellness benefits for participants.

Miami's Underline Receives Federal Grant

Miami Underline rendering courtesy of Miami-Dade

A federal BUILD transportation grant recently allocated
$22 million for design and construction of a 2.5-mile segment of Miami's Underline. The segment through Coral Gables is part of a 10-mile-long linear park, urban trail and living art destination for pedestrians and bicyclists beneath the elevated Metrorail tracks. "This is going to be a world-class amenity," said Miami Vice Mayor Vince Lago.

State of the Parks

Horseback riders on the Cross Florida Greenway by John Moran

By Eric Draper, Florida State Parks Director

2019 was a great year for Florida State Parks. Rangers, other staff and volunteers welcomed almost 30 million visitors to Florida’s best places. We are proud that Florida State Parks was recognized with a National Gold Medal for being America’s best state parks. I want to share a few other successes that helped define our year.

First, thanks for your support. By visiting our state parks, you allow us to protect our beloved park landscapes, wildlife and historic places. We’re also grateful for the investment of over 1 million hours by our 20,000 volunteers and dozens of friends’ groups.

We work hard to protect natural and cultural resources and saw successes worth celebrating. Silver Springs State Park just earned recognition on the National Register of Historic Places, the shared list of places that define American history. We’re excited about the growing popularity of cultural events like the Florida Folk Festival. Park storytelling resonates and unites people from every walk of life.

Preserving and restoring park landscapes depends on skilled, dedicated people. Working in difficult terrain, staff applied prescribed fire to a record area larger than Philadelphia. With help from the Florida Conservation Corps, staff and volunteers fought invasive exotic plants on 40,000 acres of park land, an area almost as big as Washington, D.C. This management has many benefits for wildlife such as gopher tortoises and Florida black bears.

We’re also happy to celebrate a successful year for sea turtle nesting. State parks protect 108 miles of sandy beaches where turtle teams conduct surveys every day during nesting season. This has been a great season with over 8,000 nests recorded.

We hosted hundreds of Park Fit events including ranger-guided bike rides, yoga classes and 5K runs in partnership with local organizations. We now have 2,200 miles of unpaved and paved multi-use trails that are favorite destinations for walking, running, cycling and strolling with family.

We’re grateful to the Governor’s Office and the Florida Legislature for passing budgets that invest in state parks. Thanks also to our staff who go to work every day thinking about how to do the best for Florida’s best places. Finally, thank you for being a park champion — you can visit and volunteer to help make 2020 even better.