Florida Trail Association
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April 2019 E-blaze

April 2019
FTA Award Recipients
2019 FTA Annual Meeting
We had another productive FTA Annual Meeting, Chapter Council and Board Meeting on April 6 in Gainesville, FL. This year’s annual meeting was jam-packed with exciting updates and important acknowledgements including:
  • Announcement & Swearing In Ceremony for the Board of Directors & Officers
  • Trail Operations Report by USFS Florida Trail Administrator, Shawn Thomas
  • Annual Awards Ceremony presented by Leslie Wheeler and Van Tran
  • Treasurer’s Report by Pam Hale
  • Trail Program and Outreach Report by Alex Stigliano and Van Tran
  • Ididahike 2019 Recap by Janie Hamilton of the North Florida Trailblazers
  • Closing remarks by 2017-2019 FTA President, Leslie Wheeler
Thank you to everyone who attended the annual meeting as well as the chapter council and board meetings. Your dedication to the FTA is what keeps our mission moving.
We’d also like to express our gratitude to Leslie Wheeler for her enthusiastic and inspiring leadership as the FTA President these past couple of years. It has been an honor to have her as our representative voice. We are thrilled to welcome long-term FTA member and previous VP of Trails, David Waldrop, as the new FTA President!
New FTA Chapter
The Florida Trail Association Welcomes
the Fisheating Creek Chapter
The FTA Board of Directors voted unanimously to designate a new chapter; Fisheating Creek is now the FTA’s 19th chapter!
Fisheating Creek was initially organized as a sub-chapter of the Alligator Amblers in 2010. Serving FTA-sponsored trails in Hendry and Glades counties, this group has grown to 20 registered members and expects continued growth. They worked with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to participate in the establishment of the Paradise Lake and Knobby Knee Trails at Fisheating Creek Outpost. Members of Fisheating Creek chapter have also participated in the ongoing maintenance of the Hickory Hammock Trail on the west side of the Kissimmee River.
The Fisheating Creek Chapter leadership team is as follows:
Roy Riggs, Chair
Dawn Hipple, Secretary
Margaret England, Treasurer
Bill Roy, Membership Chair
Deanna Filkins, Activity Chair
Shellie Johnson, Public Relations
Betty Loomis, Chapter Council Rep
Footprint Magazine
Our latest edition of the Footprint is now available!
This edition includes: photos of the recent Big Cypress Backcountry Work Party, historical to present perspective on statewide trail projects, a Volunteer Spotlight featuring Panhandle Chapter Members, Darryl & Melissa Updegrove, and more! Our team has worked hard in compiling this edition and feel proud to share these FTA narratives with you. Please enjoy!
Gateway Communities Outreach
Paulette Wise, Executive Director, Chamber of Commerce of Okeechobee County showing the group the design of the Okeechobee passport stamp. The FT passport program is a fun way for hikers to visit our Gateway Communities and have a memento of each place they visited along the Florida Trail.
Central/South Florida Trail Program Manager, Kelly Wiener writes:
Outreach is underway in our new Gateway Communities Program! A Gateway Community is a designated town in close proximity to the Florida Trail that offers accommodations, restaurants, grocery stores for thru-hiker resupply, and other recreational opportunities. The program works by connecting Florida Trail hikers to local businesses within the community as well as making visitors to the community aware of the Florida Trail.
On April 10th, I joined Gateway Communities Program Coordinator, Halle Goldstein, in presenting to our current southernmost Gateway Community, the city of Okeechobee. We were the featured speakers at an Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce luncheon, which was attended by over 100 members of the local community, including business owners, government representatives, public land managers, religious leaders and even the mayor. It was an excellent opportunity to educate local residents about the FTA, the Florida Trail, our hikers, and their impact on the local economy. We discussed how a Gateway Community not only brings awareness, safety, and accommodations that enhance hikers’ experience on the Florida Trail, but also provides publicity, tourism, and economic growth to each town’s local businesses.
The presentation was a resounding success, ending with a long line of local business owners waiting to talk to Halle about how to become formally involved with the Gateway Communities program.
For more information about this exciting new program, visit https://www.floridatrail.org/gatewaycommunities/.
Outdoor Afro
Earth Day Trail Maintenance in Withlacoochee State Forest
Community Outreach Manager, Van Tran, writes:
In honor of Earth Day, North Florida Trail Program Manager, Jeff Glenn, and I recently hosted trail maintenance workday with Outdoor Afro Florida. In one afternoon, we cleared 1.5 miles of trail on the Citrus Tract in Withlacoochee State Forest. We were blessed with beautiful weather and an enthusiastic group of stewards. More than half of the group consisted of Outdoor Afro members who volunteered with us at last year’s collaborative Earth Day Workday in Richloam. Thank you for joining us in clearing the Florida Trail and making this valuable resource more accessible, Outdoor Afro!
To learn more about this organization and their important, groundbreaking impact across the country, visit: http://outdoorafro.com/.
Ride the Divide
Warrior Expeditions
FT Program Director, Alex Stigliano writes,
I first learned of Warrior Expeditions in 2014, shortly after joining the FT Program staff, and I immediately connected to their mission. I came from a professional background of leading people on multi-day backcountry expeditions. I saw first-hand the transformative effect of time spent outdoors. I believe nature can bring out the best in people. Time spent away from roads, electricity, and commerce challenges us with new perspectives that inspire positive changes to our lives and communities. This is the basic premise ofWarrior Expeditions.
Warrior Expeditions is a veteran nonprofit outdoor therapy program that helps veterans transition from their wartime experiences. The program recognizes the therapeutic effects of long distance outdoor treks. With the support of the FTA and US Forest Service, Warrior Expeditions has sponsored veterans to hike the entire Florida Trail. These warriors and their stories have inspired many of us, including Mike Umbarger, an FTA member, volunteer and veteran.
Mike recently spoke with me about how Warrior Expeditions inspired him to create Ride the Divide for Warriors, a long-distance biking journey designed to raise support for this impactful program.
“Back in 2013 I was fortunate enough to complete my 2 ½ year section hike of the Florida Trail with my two sons, Zack 15 years old and Cody “Bear” 12 years old. We are still very thankful to the members and volunteers of the Florida Trail Association who made our adventure possible. I believe Ride the Divide for Warriors is a cause that FTA members would want to support.
“This August, Scott Renaux, Wilson Ospina, and I will be riding our mountain bikes along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. This 10 week, 3084-mile adventure will start in Jasper Alberta Canada heading south along the great divide to the border of Mexico, ending at Antelope Wells, NM. The purpose of this ride is to raise awareness and funds for Warrior Expeditions.
“Warrior Expeditions states that it cost approximately $5000 to equip and send one veteran on a long distance expedition (at no cost to the veteran). Ride the Divide for Warriors endeavors to raise $20,000 in order to send an entire Fire-Team (4-person team) on an expedition.
Mike has asked the FTA to pass along the following challenge to our members:
The Ride the Divide for Warriors team would like to challenge each member of the Florida Trail Association to donate just $2.00 to Warrior Expeditions help veterans recover from their wartime experience. With your help, members of the Florida Trail Association can fully equip and send more veterans on long-term expeditions.
To make a tax deductible donation, please visit the link below and click on the donate button. Also, please click on the “add special instructions to the seller,” and enter “FTA” so that the members of the Florida Trail Association can be recognized for their support.
You can learn more about Ride the Divide for Warriors and follow their adventure on the following pages (click to follow the link):
New FTA Store Shirts
Order yours today!
We’re excited to share the FTA Store has new, limited edition shirts, available while supplies last! These moisture-wicking, lightweight shirts are made of 100% Polyester. The shirt design features the unique ecosystems of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge & Gulf Islands National Seashore, two treasured sections of the Florida Trail in the Panhandle. The back of the shirts displays the FNST shield.
These shirts are light blue and are available as short- or long-sleeved in various sizes. Find more info and order yours today at: http://ftashop.floridatrail.org
Save the Date
Upcoming Volunteer Work Parties & FTA Special Events
Suwannee Bicycle Association
Pedal, Paddle and Play with SBA!
Since 1989, SBA has been promoting environmental awareness through bicycling, paddling, hiking and camping in the Suwannee Valley region. SBA’s historic clubhouse is just outside Stephen Foster State Park in White Springs, FL. Most of our events take place at the park, with easy access to hiking, road riding, paddling and 50 miles of mountain bike trails. For more information: www.suwanneebike.org
Sharing trails
Some SBA and FTA trails are shared by hikers and mountain bikers. A few years ago, the Town of White Springs, working with the FTA and SBA, created a reroute that takes FT hikers on SBA’s Bridge to Bridge mountain bike trail, along the Suwannee River and through the historic town of White Springs. In return, the FTA turned over to SBA a trail in Gar Pond. Another current FTA initiative, supported by SBA, is reopening a section of the Big Oak tract, across from the Suwannee River State Park, for hiking and cycling.
You’re invited:
Spring Pedal n’ Paddle Festival, May 2-5, 2019
2-3 days of paddling, cycling and more. Camping and meals included. More info here.
Florida Trail Association | 1-877-HIKE-FLA | floridatrail.org