Florida Trail Association

Remembering Mary Ann Twyford

Mary Ann Twyford in 1978 on the Yukon River in Canada

Mary Ann Twyford
June 6, 1932 – October 21, 2013
FTA Board Director and Past President
Central Florida Chapter: Trail Maintainer, Activity Leader
FTA Award: Cornelia Burge 1984

From the 2015 Winter Footprint:

Remembering Mary Ann Twyford
by Elizabeth Kunkee

The Florida Trail Association had a special place in the heart of my mother, Mary Ann Twyford. The roots of her love of trails probably started in the late 1950’s, when Margaret Scruggs inspired the young and then unmarried Mary Ann to become one of the adult leaders for Girl Scout backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Every summer, a group of central Florida girls would backpack for a week. I can assure you the stories of those trips were still being told decades later.

Our family’s first FTA annual meeting was at Highlands Hammock State Park, and even though I was then only 8 years old I can still remember the camaraderie and electric sense of purpose. The FTA only had about a few hundred miles built at that point. Mary Ann got involved, leading canoe trips for the FTA and then joining the Board of Directors.

I recall an exceptionally remote annual meeting on the Peace River in 1974. There was no running water; instead there were ‘water buffalo’ trailers. The exhibitors were in a big rented party tent, the Board members shivered through an outdoor board meeting, and we all had a great time at the many seminars and activities, as well as camping, day hiking and canoeing together.

The FTA kept growing. By now trail work and loading the car with camping gear were a regular part of my life. Mom continued to organize canoe trips, including one on the Missouri River in Montana in 1976, and she helped to organize a 10-day trip on the exceedingly remote Yukon River in Canada’s Yukon Territory.

Her service on the FTA Board had led to her becoming President, and my jobs now included loading both camping gear and several file boxes full of paperwork. She was passionate about the FTA mission and spent many hours on the phone with other FTA leaders. I can’t begin to remember all the names, but these pop into my mind: Montoya, Eichorn, Kern, Scruggs, Baldini, Dunnam, Palmer, Dykes, Fryer, Mulholland, and Pickard.

Well, mom was always organized, and that’s what happened to the FTA once she was elected President. The state was divided up into Chapters. The Vice-President job turned into VP Trails, VP Membership, and VP somethingelse.
Board meetings moved indoors and the Footprint started to evolve into a magazine.

Her greatest passion while serving the FTA was probably the Florida National Scenic Trail. I recall her enthusiasm when she was invited to give a speech to a congressional committee in Washington, DC. I also remember that she reached out to the Appalachian Trail Conference for advice on how to bring about the FNST. And perhaps as an offshoot to collaborating with the ATC, she became convinced that the FTA needed a salaried executive
director. This last vision was controversial and I remember it as a turbulent time for mom and probably others in FTA leadership.

After five years as FTA President, Mary Ann returned her focus to her job as a teacher and proprietor of the 110-pupil Leesburg Montessori School. Then, in 1986, with her eldest daughter Elizabeth ‘launched’, and daughterDottie going into High School, Mary Ann took a new direction in life, selling the Montessori School and taking a job for the State of Florida as the state’s first “Trails Planner” for the Department of Natural Resources.

In Tallahassee, Mary Ann threw herself into bringing Rails-to-Trails to Florida, helping convince the State Parks that, yes, they could manage a linear recreational property with unfenced boundaries; and thus she helped pave the way for the St. Marks Rail-Trail. She also managed publishing brochures and other concerns related to Florida Canoe trails and provided support to the Florida National Scenic Trail.

Mary Ann retired from the Department of Natural Resources after four years and lived in a woodsy house on a large lake north of Tallahassee until Alzheimer’s disease necessitated a move into town; later she lived with mein Manhattan Beach, California.

Mary Ann passed away as a hospice patient on October 21, 2013, her death caused by Alzheimer’s. She was a Florida native, born in Cocoa, Florida on June 6, 1932, and is survived by her daughters Elizabeth Kunkee and Dottie Bawek, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandson.