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February 2020 E-blaze

 

February 2020
Trail Recovery & Regeneration
The FT in Econfina is Accessible Again
Panhandle Trail Program Manager, Adam Fryska, writes:
The FTA is happy to announce that the Econfina Section has been re-opened following the catastrophic damage sustained during Hurricane Michael. This was a monumental effort, requiring 4 major staff-supported Volunteer Work parties, 2 multi-week hitches by professional sawyer crews supported by FTA volunteers, and numerous Panhandle Chapter maintenance and scouting days. Well over 2,000 hours of work were logged by FTA volunteers, Framing Our Community staff, and USFS personnel in the completion of this project. We extend a heartfelt “thank you” to the dedicated trail workers who contributed to the re-opening of this much-used and appreciated section of trail.
While the trail has been cleared of major blowdowns and is now passable for the entire distance between the Highway 20 and Scott Road trailheads, conditions still remain difficult. Longtime hikers of Econfina may be shocked by the changes; many sections suffered near-total tree loss, and what was once a pleasant, shady forest path is now exposed to the sun and experiencing tremendous new growth of vines and thorny underbrush. In some areas, hikers are essentially passing through a narrow tunnel of bucked logs and branches from the cleared blowdowns. We will continue to clear and widen the trail corridor this field season, and we’re looking forward to watching this beautiful area start to regenerate.
Keep an eye on the Panhandle Chapter Meetup page for upcoming volunteer opportunities and hikes in Econfina!
Photos captured by Darryl Updegrove
Hike the Hill 2020
The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe, the less taste we shall have
for destruction. – Rachel Carson
Trail Program Director, Kelly Wiener, writes:
On February 8th-12th, four representatives of the FTA traveled to Washington, D.C. to advocate for the Florida Trail and land conservation in Florida. This effort, known as “Hike the Hill”, is jointly hosted between the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) and the American Hiking Society (AHS). Now in its 23rd year, the week is aimed at increasing congressional and federal agency leader awareness of funding and other needs that sustain the National Trails System. Each February, trail partners and organizations from across the nation convene in Washington to discuss legislation, current policies, and goals with federal partners, congress representatives or their staff, and fellow trail organizations.
The FTA team met with representatives and staffers from all of Florida’s 27 congressional districts, as well as both senate offices. We shared the FTA’s successes and challenges, asked for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and also asked for support of the Restore Our Parks Act.
A huge and heartfelt thank you to PNTS and AHS for organizing this incredible opportunity, and to our board members Amanda Kincaid and Leslie Wheeler for donating their time, effort and travel costs to join us. We look forward to continuing to build relationships with Florida’s delegation until we meet again next year!
Rice Creek Infrastructure Improvements
A Collaborative Effort by the Florida Trail Association,
the US Forest Service & Framing Our Community
Kayti Lavicky from Framing Our Community cuts the old bridge stringer for removal
North Florida Trail Program Manager, Jeff Glenn, writes:
This winter, a team from Framing our Community and the FTA made extensive repairs to a suspension bridge on the Florida Trail in Rice Creek Conservation Area. Approximately a year and a half ago, the bridge had been hit by a falling tree, breaking one of the bridge stringers and leaving it passable but severely damaged. Over the course of three weeks, the crew made extensive repairs including constructing new towers, replacing the stringers, and replacing the decking. Rice Creek is a popular hiking destination in the north region as it offers historical, cultural, and scenic value not commonly found on the Florida Trail. There is also a loop trail which is maintained by FTA volunteers that offers more options for day hikes. One of the most fascinating features of the area is the number of bridges and boardwalks that can be found. In addition to Hoffman’s Crossing, the second longest structure on the FT, there are 50 structures found in the trail system. It makes for a unique hike but also a serious challenge to maintain. FTA volunteers from the Black Bear Chapter are generally able to do the structural maintenance alone, but this suspension bridge required the help of a professional trail crew to assist.
Big Cypress 13-Mile Camp Work Party
North Florida Trail Program Manager, Jeff Glenn, writes:
For the first time in recent memory, if not the first time ever, the entire 30 miles of Big Cypress National Preserve has been maintained in a single season by FTA volunteers. In early February, the backcountry Volunteer Work Party camped at 13 Mile Camp and worked for 5 days to maintain approximately 12 miles of trail in both directions from the camp. Water levels were average for this time of year, with the north section holding knee deep water in some places. Our crew of 10 volunteers and one staff member worked hard to re-blaze and cut back encroaching vegetation. As always, the food was amazing, the campfires blazed, the jokes were hysterical, and the crew was pleasantly exhausted at the end of each day. Highlights included: watching the full moon rise over the nearby cypress dome, red wine balsamic reduction sauce over steak and asparagus, record-breaking swamp buggy rides to and from camp, friends from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, no mosquitos, and an amazing crew.
Big Cypress Ivy Camp Work Party
Central/South Trail Program Manager, Jenna Taylor, writes:
They could be heard long before they were seen. Two soggy and muddy hikers appeared in the entrance to Ivy Camp. Gratitude for fresh water and relief to hear they were nearing the end of their journey filled the campsite. “Popeye” and “Bionic Elbow” were on day two of their Big Cypress hike, beginning in Oasis and ending at the I-75 rest stop. Someone remarked, “If the devil had a garden…this would be it,” and everyone laughed. They expressed their appreciation of the hard work this team and the trail crews in weeks prior had invested in making their journey safe and easy to follow. Talk of ice cream at the rest stop encouraged them to press on and finish before dark, cutting their planned three-day journey down to just two. They rejoined the trail and as their splashing subsided from earshot, the campsite returned to the sounds of frogs and the occasional gator bellow.
Four volunteers from the Alligator Amblers chapter accompanied me in spending five days in Big Cypress this month. We camped at Ivy Camp and completed 6 miles of trail maintenance. The most significant maintenance occurred between Ivy Camp and Oak Hill, where blazes were nearly gone from long Florida days in the sun. Standing in the Black Lagoon, it is hard to remember you are working. Pausing amongst the blazes, it is truly a place of beauty seen no where else along the Florida Trail.
As the last trail crew out in the 2019-2020 maintenance season in Big Cypress, the trail has now been 100% maintained in one season for the first time in many years. Due to the nature of Big Cypress, a full completion of the trail can be challenging with either too much or too little water.
The Alligator Amblers Chapter and other FTA volunteers should be very proud of the work they did this year. Thank you to the National Parks Service for supporting the maintenance this season.
FTA Annual Awards
Calling for 2020 FTA Awards Nominations!
The Florida Trail Association’s annual awards serve as a way to recognize members, volunteers, partners, and supporters for their incredible contributions to the organization and the trail. Every year, we ask our partners, members and volunteers to nominate people in the community for their exceptional contributions.
Please take part in helping us recognize those who have played a vital role in supporting and furthering the mission of the FTA.
CLICK HERE to submit an Awards Nomination Form and to find out more information about the Award Categories.
Note that the award descriptions have been revised with some changes to specific awards. A few new awards have also been introduced.
Volunteer Awards Nominations are due by 5PM EST on Wednesday, March 4, 2020.
Awards will be presented at the FTA Annual Meeting on Saturday, April 4, 2020 in Gainesville, FL (location and further details will soon be announced).
FTA Board of Directors
Cast your vote to play an important role in the future of the Florida Trail Association!
As a member of the Florida Trail Association, you have the privilege of casting your vote in the 2020 Board of Directors election. You have a voice, and we want to hear it!
SEVERAL WAYS TO CAST YOUR VOTE!
By Mail: You can access and print a Mail-in Ballot HERE.
Mail in ballots must be received by the Florida Trail Association no later than March 27th, 2020.
Mail to: Florida Trail Association 1050 NW 2nd Street, Suite A Gainesville, FL 32601
Electronically: There is also option to vote online. CLICK HERE to complete the online ballot.
Online voting is currently open and will close by 5PM EST, March 27th, 2020.
Results of the 2020 elections will be announced at the FTA Annual Meeting on Saturday, April 4th, 2020 in Gainesville, FL (location and further details will soon be announced).
*You must be an FTA member in order to vote. Note, only one vote per membership. If you chose to submit your ballot by mail, you will not need to vote electronically.
Save the Date!
12th Annual Ididahike
March 6 – 7, 2020
Inverness, FL
3rd Annual Micco Bluff Celebration Hike
2020 FTA South Regional Conference
Florida Trail Association | 1-877-HIKE-FLA | floridatrail.org