I held a meeting of the board of Friends of the Florida Trail at my house on Saturday, November 7, and included another dozen invited guests, all hikers and backpackers. We spoke briefly about how to better market the Florida Trail among Floridians as well as folks up north as the only winter hiking trail in America. The emphasis of the meeting was: How can we close 300 miles of gaps in a proposed 1300-mile trail from Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida to Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Panhandle.
By unanimous consent, we passed a resolution expressing a concern over this lack of continuity. The resolution and the names of the attendees are below. To my mind, this is the formal beginning of an important effort that has been brewing in my mind for years.
There will now be regular communications on this subject on this blog and elsewhere. Are you with us? Do we have your e-mail address? Please check this blog from time to time.
November 6, 2015
BE IT RESOLVED that Friends of the Florida Trail, meeting in St. Augustine on November 7, 2015 and being of one accord, do hereby make public the following:
WHEREAS the Florida Trail in a few months will be celebrating its 50th anniversary and
WHEREAS the volunteers of the Florida Trail Association have made diligent progress extending the trail from Big Cypress National Preserve to Fort Pickens National Park, building 1000 miles of a 1300-mile trail, and
WHEREAS the Trail is of great value to the citizens of Florida in providing a resource for physical exertion in a peaceful and spiritual environment, and
WHEREAS the Florida Trail provides a real asset of inexpensive and healthy recreation for families and youth groups, including groups working with disadvantaged teens, and
WHEREAS the Florida Trail represents a resource in dealing with a national epidemic of obesity, particularly among young people, and
WHEREAS the Florida Trail would acquire a much greater national stature and recognition by citizens of Florida if it were continuous, and
WHEREAS the Appalachian Trail represents a template by which other National Scenic Trails could seek continuity, and
WHEREAS hiking consumes only our own energy, requires no costly infrastructure, is non-polluting, and
WHEREAS the State of Florida recognizes the Florida National Scenic Trail as Florida’s official state-wide, non-motorized trail, and
WHEREAS Florida Statute c.260.012 recognizes the significant economic benefit of nature-based recreation, and
WHEREAS Florida statute encourages all state, regional and local agencies that acquire lands to give consideration to lands that contain designated portions of the trail.
NOW THEREFORE we assembled here request that our Senator Marco Rubio propose in Congress an order, as a follow up to the National Trails System Acts of 1968 and 1978, to request that the U.S. Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service conduct a study to determine the current status and future needs of these National Scenic Trails and:
• how to close the gaps in the Florida National Scenic Trail and complete a continuous and protected corridor, and
• how the other National Scenic Trails can acquire continuity and protected corridors. Only the Appalachian Trail, of the eleven National Scenic Trails, has secure access and right-of-way and a protected scenic corridor from end to end.
WE DO HEREBY affix our names to this RESOLUTION. (See pages 2 & 3)
Friends of the Florida Trail Board Meeting
10:30 to 1:30, Saturday, November 7, 2015
700 Island Landing Dr., St. Augustine, FL 32095
James A. Kern, President, The Kern Company, Real Estate; Founder, Florida Trail Association; Co-Founder, American Hiking Society; Founder, Big City Mountaineers; Founder, Friends of the Florida Trail.
Dave Bewley, Bewley & Associates, Insurance; Decided in his 70s to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
Fred Goldstein, President and Founder, Accountable Health, LLC; hiked segments of the FNST, A.T. and PCT, including the John Muir Trail.
Tristan MacDonald, Owner, Raintree Restaurant; many hikes in the British Isles, Europe, South America & Colorado.
Al Merritt, Founder, MD International, Medical equipment sales; led 7 BCM trips.
Drew Kern, Real Estate Sales, Eslinger Wooten & Maxwell, hiked with one disadvantaged teen in 1989 when BCM vision was born; past BCM board member.
Paul Shelowitz, Attorney, Stroock, Stroock & Lavan; past BCM adult volunteer; past BCM board member.
Bob Warren, Past Chair, Department of Cell Biology, University of Miami Medical School; early FT hiker; led 14 BCM trips as an Adult Volunteer or Team Leader.
Ernie Baldini. Melbourne. Retired space coast engineer. Past President, Florida Trail Association. Past board member, American Hiking Society.
Bob Boerema. St. Augustine. Architect. Retired. Early adult leader with Big City Mountaineers.
Tom Dumas. Jacksonville. Real estate investor. Has hiked with Kern in the French Alps and in Bhutan.
Sandra Friend. Sanford. Author of over a dozen books on hiking in Florida. She and John Keatley own FloridaHikes.com.
Ben McPherson. Tampa. Retired. U.S. Geological Survey. Kern’s hiking companion from the early days.
Paul Pritchard. Palm Coast. Retired. Past Deputy Asst. Dir., Dept. of the Interior. Past President, Appalachian Trail Conference. Past President, National Parks Conservation Association.
Carlos Schomaker. Fort Myers. Computer engineer. President, Florida Trail Association.
Kent Wimmer. Tallahassee. Past liaison, U.S. Forest Service and the Florida Trail Association. Past Pres., Partnership for the National Trails System. Now with Defenders of Wildlife.
Spouses also attending:
Donna Bewley. (We look forward to meeting her.)
Mary Lu Rizzo. Hiker extraordinaire. Puts up with Bob Warren.
Sharon Conley. Businesswoman extraordinaire. Engaged to Paul Pritchard.
John Keatley. Hiker extraordinaire. Husband of Sandra Friend.
Cynthia Henderson. Tallahassee. Lobbyist. Past Secretary, Dept. of Business & Professional Regulation and Dept. of Management Services. Past President of the Tallahassee Republican Women’s Club Federation & President of the Florida Federation of Republican Women.
Jane Mahoney. St. Augustine. Retired corporate executive. Grant-writing cohort.