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December 2018 E-blaze

December 2018
Season’s Greetings from the FTA
FTA President, Leslie Wheeler, writes:
Looking through my calendar from this entire year reminds me how busy we’ve been working for the Florida Trail. I will surely omit your most important trail day, but here are some of mine: the Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Ididahike, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act at our own super fun National Trails Festival, moving the FTA office, making the hard decision to demolish the old office, amending the bylaws to allow electronic voting for the Board of Directors, and the Big Shoals ribbon cutting. We even closed 19 miles of roadwalk this year. Of course, we’ve had some sad days as FTA has lost several veteran members this past year. And the Panhandle chapter has taught us how to keep putting one boot in front of the other. Never hopeless and never daunted,  the FTA volunteers, staff, and our partners keep promoting, building, and protecting the Florida Trail. We are truly an amazing team. I’d like to thank the leaders in each chapter who keep activities on the calendar and invite new members to join. It’s amazing to know that such dedication is not just found in one chapter- it’s in all of our chapters. And because of your hard work and passion for connecting people to the real Florida, over 1000 people a day enjoy the Florida Trail. So, I know it gets said many times, many ways, but thank you for all you have done this year for all of us. I hope you find some holiday joy on the Florida Trail soon. See you in 2019!
Congrats, Jeff!
Five Years as the North Florida Trail Manager
FT Program Director, Alex Stigliano, writes:
North Florida Regional Trail Manager, Jeff Glenn, celebrated his 5 year anniversary with the Florida Trail Association this past Fall. To commemorate the event, the FTA presented Jeff with a framed, “Fall 2018 Five Year Anniversary,” edition Footprint cover at the annual staff holiday party. This one-of-a-kind cover (we had it made as a special gift) highlights some of the many achievements from Jeff’s tenure working alongside volunteers in his region. Jeff’s region extends from the eastern boundary of Twin Rivers SF to the southeast boundary of the Ocala NF, and it includes the Black Bear, Sandhill, Trailblazers, and Highlanders Chapters. Jeff also works with the Suncoast Chapter on a project-by-project basis.
Jeff brings so much knowledge and experience to the Florida Trail Program Team. Thank you Jeff for all of your fantastic work!
Spring Hammock Preserve
New Campsite for Thru & Section Hikers
Central & South Florida Trail Manager, Kelly Wiener, writes:
We are thrilled to announce the addition of a new campsite in Spring Hammock Preserve!
Between the unnamed campsite at the western boundary of Little Big Econ State Forest and the shelter at Seminole State Forest, there was a 29-mile stretch of the Florida Trail with no camping options. On December 1st, 19 volunteers cleared a new blue-blazed trail that leads to the spacious primitive campsite overlooking Soldiers Creek. The workday also included installing a puncheon along the new spur trail and clearing other trails within the preserve.
Due to the lack of overnight parking in the preserve, the new campsite is available for use by thru and section hikers only. Please call the FTA office at 352-378-8823 in advance of your stay and provide your name, phone number and approximate date of stay. The campsite can be accessed via a 0.1-mile blue-blazed spur trail on the southern side of the Soldiers Creek bridge.
Thank you to Seminole County for its renewed partnership with the FTA and commitment to making the trail accommodating for long distance hikers. We would also like to recognize REI’s continued support of the Florida Trail, which included the funding of the puncheon, trail tools, lunch, and a new kiosk soon to be installed in the preserve. Lastly, we would like to thank the FTA Central Florida chapter’s amazing building crew for coordinating the puncheon construction.
Orange Blaze: A Florida Trail Podcast
Panhandle Trail Closure Updates with Adam Fryska
Our very own Panhandle Trail Manager, Adam Fryska, was featured on a recent episode of the Orange Blaze Podcast! Adam discusses current conditions in the Panhandle in the wake up of Hurricane Michael and how the FTA is responding to make the Florida Trail safe and accessible again. Please give this a listen and thank you Misti Little for the incredible work you do to capture the many voices of the trail!
Ocala National Forest
The Western Corridor Puncheon Project is Complete
Puncheon Project Oct 2018
North Florida Trail Manager, Jeff Glenn, writes:
On December 18, we wrapped up the Western Corridor puncheon project, installing the very last of the 800 deck timbers. That is 9,600 linear feet of new material! What an incredible feat, knowing that just the deck boards alone weighed a whopping 80,000 pounds…. and think about how many times each one of those was picked up and put down! Our trail crews also installed 350 (26,000 pounds) of the mud sills, 700 pieces of rebar, and hammered in 3,200 timber spikes. We had some machinery to help us along the way, but it was definitely an extremely physical project and each person’s labor is what carried us to the end. This was a unique project for the FTA and we could not have done it without the incredible, hard working volunteers who have given their all. At times it was hot, cold, muddy, swampy, and always hard work, but we did it and we should all be proud of the accomplishment.
Over the course of this project: 56 individual FTA volunteers worked 2,424 hours and drove a whopping 8,585 miles to work on the trail
I want to personally recognize the amazing leadership of Abe Christian. His leadership and dedication was a major factor in the success of this project and he has a lot to be proud of.
I also want to thank the National Forest Foundation, REI Inc., and the Ocala National Forest for supporting this project.
Scout Stewardship
Eagle Scout looks out for the Florida Trail
Central & South Florida Trail Manager, Kelly Wiener, writes:
The FTA would like to congratulate Mitchell Landsea of Boy Scout Troop 711 on the completion of his Eagle Scout project along the Florida Trail in Big Cypress National Preserve. The project involved constructing heavy-duty picnic tables at 7 Mile Camp, 10 Mile Camp, and 13 Mile Camp. Mitchell also coordinated the updating of mile markers along 17 miles of trail from the Oasis Visitor Center to 13 Mile Camp. Under Mitchell’s leadership, 10 scouts completed the project over two work days. Mitchell fund-raised from his local church for the picnic benches and from Roasters n’ Toasters for bagels for the crews. Thank you Mitchell for completing a project that greatly improves the safety and comfort of hikers on the Florida Trail!
Florida Trail Gateway Communities
Left: Duo 58 Community Coffee Bar & Cafe, Oviedo
Right: Inverness City Hall
Suwannee River Yoga, White Springs
Gateway Communities Coordinator, Halle Goldstein, writes:
The Florida Trail Gateway Community pages are now available online! The Florida Trail Association has partnered with 11 designated towns to enhance hiker resources and experiences on the Florida Trail. A Gateway Community is a city in close proximity to the Florida Trail that offers accommodation, restaurants, grocery stores, and recreational opportunities. This program works by connecting our hikers to these towns and local businesses along the Florida Trail, and vice versa.
The public now has access to the Gateway Community webpages which include local recommended hot spots for resupply, cheap lodging, a bite to eat, or fun recreational activities. The addresses, phone numbers and websites to these amazing places are also provided. These web pages additionally include information regarding access from the Florida Trail, town population, and an interactive community map. Not only will utilizing our FT Gateway Communities be a fun and resourceful way to hike the trail, but also your dollars will provide economic growth to these small towns and support local businesses. If this isn’t enough to convince you, our Gateway Communities will also be hosting Florida Trail passport stamps available through the city halls and select local businesses. Explore our newly launched Gateway Community pages and find out more about the passport program at:https://www.floridatrail.org/gatewaycommunities/. Happy hiking!
Lake Lizzie Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
Friday, January 25th, 10:30 AM – 3:00 PM
Central & South Florida Trail Manager, Kelly Wiener, writes:
In Central Florida, our staff, volunteers and Forest Service partners have been diligently working on the long-awaited solution to close the gap in Orange and Osceola County around the Deseret Ranch. This reroute will close a 31-mile road walk– the largest gap on the Florida Trail– between Bull Creek WMA and Tosohatchee WMA. This new section of trail will connect parcels owned by a variety of entities including the Fish and Wildlife Commission, Orange County, Osceola County, local land developers, utility services, and more.
FTA staff and volunteers have been blazing segments of trail as agreements with these land managing entities are reached. For this event, we’re celebrating our agreement with Osceola County by hosting a ribbon cutting and inaugural hike at Lake Lizzie.
While Lake Lizzie has officially been designated as a new section of the Florida Trail, it has not yet been connected for long-distance hiking. Stay tuned on social media and our Footprint magazine for more updates as this reroute develops!
Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Saturday, January 26th, 5-10 PM
@ Swamp Head Brewery, Gainesville FL
The Florida Trail Association is proud to present:
For this outdoor screening, we chose a unique program of environmental and adventure films that illustrate the Earth’s beauty. They also show the challenges facing our planet and the communities working to protect it. Climb the highest peaks and trek across the globe with adventure films from around the world. You’ll witness how individuals and communities across the globe are taking action.
There will be 14 films, live music, exciting raffle items, beverages including a special one-night-only Florida Trail Ale (courtesy of Swamp Head Brewery), and food vendors. Folks will also have the chance to interact with local, Florida-based organizations dedicated to supporting outdoor recreation and environmental conservation throughout the state.
***Purchase advance tickets HERE***
Join us for an evening of inspiration and connection!
Wild & Scenic Film Festival Teaser
The Front Porch Backsteppers will be delighting us again with their lovely tunes as they did at the National Trails Festival!
Event Sponsors & Tabling Partners
Save the Date
Upcoming Volunteer Work Parties & FTA Special Events
Fall 2018 Footprint Magazine
Check out the digital version of our recent Footprint edition!
Wilderness First Responder Certification
Upcoming Course Announcement
January 10-18, Apopka, FL: Lewis & Clark College Wilderness First Responder Certification
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