The Florida Trail Association does a commendable job of maintaining the Florida Trail. Yes, not all sections are up to standard at all times, but that’s understandable since parts of the state can be difficult to marshal trail crews where membership is thin.
When it comes to outreach, we all talk up the trail, but probably no one does a better job than Sandra Friend and John Keatley in Sanford. Their website, www.floridahikes.com, provides a wealth of information and is up-to-date and pro-active. It is particularly helpful for people living in the north who have heard about the trail and want to come down in season (December to April is best.)
Still, there is much to be done and not much that’s getting done. Friends of the Florida Trail, has been formed to help promote the trail throughout the state. Most importantly, it has been formed to address the question: How do we close the gaps in this 1,584-mile trail?
A thousand miles of trail have been built by Florida Trail members. But the trail won’t be complete until it is continuous, meaning no road-walks where the trail breaks. The Florida Trail has been designated a National Scenic Trail by Congress, who didn’t plan on sending hikers out on roads and highways that are dangerous, hot and boring. They had in mind a scenic interlude from our busy lifestyles where hikers could flex their limbs, immerse themselves in nature and enjoy the fresh air. This is the experience we want to deliver.
How do we close these gaps? The experience of the Appalachian Trail is helpful. When Congress created the National Trails System Act in 1968, it provided funding and eminent domain for the Appalachian Trail, but nothing much happened for the first 10 years. So in 1978 Congress held oversight hearings and assigned the acquisition task to the U.S. Parks Service that then launched a 30-year effort to acquire all the right-of-way for the trail. Two-thirds of the 2180-mile trail was already on federal land, which left trail acquisition for the remaining 700 miles. There were 2550 separate acquisitions involved, but the job was completed and the trail is now safe for posterity. By the way, 400 of those acquisitions required eminent domain. For many of them, the task was simply to clear the title or end disputes within families over land ownership.
Friends of the Florida Trail is open to explore every avenue for preserving the trail, and we can’t put this task off forever. Even though we try to locate the trail in the wildest parts of the state, we still have a huge job in retaining the wilderness setting we all expect when we hike.
So please join us to help preserve the Florida Trail for future generations. There are no dues or membership roster. Send us your e-mail address, and we will keep you informed and, yes, you may get a request for a donation once or twice a year.
Founder, Florida Trail Association, 1966
Co-Founder, American Hiking Society, 1976
Director, HikaNation, 1980-81
Founding Publisher, American Hiker Magazine, 1988
Founder, Big City Mountaineers, 1989
Past President, Hiker’s Grand Slam, 1998
Past President, Kern Trekking & Travel, 1999
Author, Trail Reflections, 50 Years of Hiking and Backpacking, 2011
Founder, Hiking Trails for America, 2013
Founder, Friends of the Florida Trail, 2014
Author, Broken Promise: The Plight of Our National Trails, 2021
Friends of the Florida Trail Leadership Board
Past Chair, Department of Cell Biology, University of Miami Medical School
President and Founder, Accountable Health, LLC
James A. Kern
Founder, Florida Trail Association; Co-Founder, American Hiking Society; Founder, Friends of the Florida Trail; President, The Kern Company, Real Estate
Real Estate Sales, Eslinger Wooten & Maxwell
Bewley & Associates, Insurance
Owner, Raintree Restaurant
Founder: MD International, Medical equipment sales
Attorney, Stroock, Stroock & Lavan