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Hidden Coast Paddling Tour - Hog Island

Hidden Coast Paddling Festival: Fun Equals Economic Impact

The charming town of Cedar Key was the site of the 4th Annual Hidden Coast Paddling Festival, which won rave reviews from local and visiting paddlers, while landing a substantial economic windfall for area businesses.

Well over 130 paddlers, plus scores of volunteers settled in the picturesque town of Cedar Key during the Oct 4-6 weekend jubilee. According to Carol McQueen, Executive Director of Levy County Visitors Bureau, "...the weekend festival brought in an estimated $50,000 to $60,000 to local businesses and a post-event survey revealed that 100 percent of festival participants would definitely return to Cedar Key in the future.” This is great news for area merchants, as outdoor enthusiasts continue to share the beauty of the area and their festival experiences with the world through social media.

During the event, festival participants enjoyed a jam-packed weekend filled with adventure, tasty meals featuring local seafood and land-based opportunities that highlighted the history, culture, seafood industry, and incredible natural resources that surround the area.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2012 Florida Outdoor Recreation Economy Report, paddling is only one component of the huge outdoor recreation economic engine that brings $38.3 billion in consumer spending to Florida annually, along with $2.5 billion in state and local taxes, while supporting 330,000 jobs. In addition, Florida is also the nation’s leading state for the number of nights out-of-state visitors spend wildlife viewing, bringing in almost $5 billion annually, as stated in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation Report.

The waterways and public lands surrounding the communities of the Hidden Coast are a haven for abundant wildlife and a year-round draw for the visitors who seek them. There are a lot of good (and profitable) reasons for promoting outdoor recreation and attracting nature-based tourism by holding successful events such as the Hidden Coast Paddling Festival and plans for the 2014 5th Annual event are already in the works… Steinhatchee, FL.

By Liz Sparks, Paddling Trail Coordinator, FDEP, Office of Greenways and Trails

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Palatka Multi-Use Trail Festival a Success!

Palatka Trail Festival 2013 - Ride

The City of Palatka and Putnam County embraced the Urban Palatka Rail Trail and its future on August 17, 2013. This newest section of trail is a significant part of their trail vision and master plan to create a trail hub that links many pathways and blueways in Palatka. Some of these include the Cross Florida Greenway, the Florida National Scenic Trail, the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop, the East Coast Greenway, the St. Johns River Blueway, and several multipurpose connectors to Gainesville, Green Cove Springs, Crescent City and more.
Over 500 cyclists, walkers and school children joined the festivities by enjoying the trail, participating in activities and visiting the 20 community-based booths. Special activities for kids included Backpacks-Full-of-Fun, free bicycle helmets, identification documenting, and face painting.

Gaye Esperson, Chair of the Putnam Blueways and Trails Citizens Support Organization, shared that the "event was a tremendous success and very rewarding."

Palatka Mayor Vernon Myers presided over the ribbon cutting. He was joined by Putnam County Commissioner Chip Laibl as they spoke of the importance of the trail which one day will span six counties at a length of over 100 miles. The crowd included Heb Hiller, members of the Florida Greenways and Trail Foundation, a variety of town dignitaries, a group of cyclists that had already ridden the trail over the bridge to Hastings and back, and many others who then made the ceremonial ride/walk on the trail.

Organizers express their gratitude to the Rail-to-Trails Conservancy, St. Johns River Riders, Putnam Blueways and Trails Citizens Support Organization, Putnam County Trails Council, Putnam County Chamber of Commerce, and the Office of Greenways and Trails for helping to make this event possible.

By Kraig McLane, Vice-chair Putnam County Trail Council

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Office of Greenways and Trails Connections Newsletter. For information, please contact Angie Bright at Angie.Bright@dep.state.fl.us.


 

FDEP Office of Greenways & Trails | 3900 Commonwealth Blvd. MS 795 | Tallahassee | FL | 32399

Hillsborough County's New Pedestrian Trail Bridge

Courtney Campbell Bridge between the bridge looking west

Nov 16 marked the official opening of the Courtney Campbell Causeway Scenic Trail. A ribbon-cutting ceremony sponsored by the Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway Corridor Advisory Committee was held to celebrate and debut Hillsborough County’s segment of the new multi-use pedestrian trail and bridge.

The span, constructed by the American Bridge Company was funded using federal dollars allotted by the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT). The bridge runs parallel to existing State Road 60 and connects with the existing U-Path trail on the east, which links Skyway Park and Cypress Point Park. It continues west to Ben T. Davis Beach and currently ends at the Hillsborough/Pinellas County line.

The ribbon cutting ceremony had been a highly anticipated event, even though DOT allowed users access to the Hillsborough County portion of trail beginning Labor Day weekend. Bill Jonson, Chair of the Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway Corridor Advisory Committee, said: “Usage of the trail has exceeded my expectations especially since the trail is open only half way across the causeway. There are many people out there all the time – a real asset to the Tampa Bay area.”

Phase two, the Pinellas County three-mile segment, is scheduled to begin construction in January and is projected to finish in early 2015. When complete, the Courtney Campbell Trail will offer trail users nine miles of continued connectivity. “We are excited to be behind this project," states DOT, District Seven Public Involvement Coordinator, Lori Marable, "it’s a great asset to the regional trail connections in our area.”

The causeway, which features a 45 foot overlook, offers picturesque vistas of the Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg and Clearwater tri-city area. It also offers a 12-foot wide path that welcomes bird-watchers, walkers, runners, in-line skaters and bicyclists. For the safety of all users, anglers are required to fish under and alongside the bridge’s entry points, but not on the bridge itself.

If you did not have the opportunity to attend the opening ceremonies, now is the perfect time to get outdoors, enjoy the cooler weather and discover the new multi-use pedestrian trail bridge.

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St. Johns River, Cypress Creek Receive Council Approval

The Florida Greenways and Trails Council (FGTC) voted unanimously to approve designations of the Cypress Creek Natural Area and the St. Johns River Blueway paddling tail into the Florida Greenways and Trails System at its Sept 27 meeting in Sanford, Florida.

The 2,083-acre Cypress Creek Natural Area (CCNA) helps to protect the wild and scenic Loxahatchee River and its high-quality examples of basin marsh, blackwater stream, depression marsh, dome swamp, hydric hammock, mesic flatwoods, mesic hammock, scrubby flatwoods, strand swamp and wet flatwoods. It is managed by the Palm Beach County Environmental Lands Division.

The CCNA also contains a portion of the Loxahatchee River Battlefield from the Second Seminole War, remnants of the Rood Settlement, Native American middens and a segment of the historic Jupiter-Indiantown Road, making this designation an extremely important environmental and cultural inclusion.

Proposed and existing recreational facilities and interpretive features at the CCNA include a series of hiking and multi-use trails, a canoe/kayak launch and trail, a fishing pier and other public use facilities. Visit the Cypress Creek Natural Area website for detailed information about the property and its offerings.

In 2003, public and private partners from 13 counties collaborated to form the St. Johns River Alliance, a non-profit group with a goal of “preserving, protecting, and promoting America’s first river.” The Alliance rallied behind and requested the designation of the St. Johns River Blueway.

The 310-mile Blueway stretching from Brevard to Duval County was also fully implemented into the network, becoming the longest river trail to be designated. Maps and trail guides are currently being developed by the Alliance. To learn more about this mighty river, its tributaries or its adjacent land parcels visit the St. Johns River Alliance’s website.

To obtain information on the Office of Greenways and Trails Designation Program, visit the website or contact Marsha Rickman at marsha.rickman@dep.state.fl.us.

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Local Trail Extension Projects Established through DOT Partnership 

Archer Braid Trail - New DOT Connection Holloway to Roberts

The Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) has been a partner in the construction of trails in past years. Two of the latest projects to conclude are sections of the Archer Braid Trail and the Palatka-to-Lake Butler State Trail (PLBST).

The newest segment of the Archer Braid Trail, completed this June, was built along Archer Road (State Road 24) from the water tower in Archer to Southwest 91st Street in Gainesville.

In addition to the paved six-mile, 10-foot wide trail, a trailhead located at the western end of the route was also constructed. Parking is available at the trailhead and a water fountain was added by the Archer Chamber of Commerce.

Another expansion project unveiled by DOT last month is the newest section of the Palatka-to-Lake Butler State Trail, which runs alongside State Road 100 from Holloway Road to Roberts Lane. With this project complete, the PLBST now provides 19 miles of continuous paved trail that reaches through and connects Bradford, Clay and Putnam counties.

As DOT continues their commitment to trails, plans are in DOT’s Five-Year Work Program to fund more paths along the Archer Braid Trail footprint and expand further down State Roads 100 and 207.

The creation and use of these facilities and others like it throughout Florida further enhance the state’s roadways.The trails provide ways for users to safely move about for recreation. They improve the overall health of users and aid in getting users from one place to the next.


By Laurie Windham and Laurie Sanderson

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