Florida Trail Association
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March 2020 E-blaze

March 2020
FTA’s Response to the COVID-19 Outbreak
After monitoring widespread and rapidly changing closures across the Florida Trail, the FTA is strongly recommending that the public cease backpacking on the Florida Trail, including section hiking and thru-hiking. In addition to trail and campsite closures, many local businesses typically used for resupply points are closed.
The FTA feels that ending and postponing long distance hikes during this national emergency aligns wirh widely-accepted medical, government, and scientific recommendations for avoiding exposure and limiting the spread of COVID-19 to our communities. Day hiking with safe social distancing is permissible in the areas of the FT that are currently open (refer to our Trail Closures and Notices Page).
We are working hard to keep our Trail Closures & Notices page up to date with all closures and official notices, but note that this resource is not updated outside of regular business hours. Please refer to official land manager and agency websites for the most up to date information before heading out to the trail for a day hike.
After careful consideration, the FTA board has made the decision to cancel and/or postpone all in-person events, including but not limited to activity hikes, trail maintenance, chapter meetings, and other meetings, until May 1. During this time, trail work done by an individual would not fall under the US Forest Service sponsored volunteer agreement, and therefore would not be covered by US Forest Service liability insurance. We will reevaluate the circumstances and update our community if this recommendation will be extended beyond May.
In addition, the FTA office in Gainesville has been closed to the public until further notice. With more FTA staff working remotely, you may notice some delays in our ability to process orders from the FTA store, process new memberships, and respond to questions. Thank you in advance for your patience.
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 after hiking the trail, please email communications@floridatrail.org so we can take the necessary steps to alert land managers and other entities along the trail.
Thank you for your passion and commitment to the Florida Trail. Together, we’ll do all we can to reduce the spread and severity of COVID-19. We’re wishing you good health and safety during this challenging time.
Florida Trail Virtual Puzzles
Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability
to keep a good attitude while waiting.
In this period in which we are all spending more time at home, we want to keep you connected to the Florida Trail.
✨Each Friday from now through May, we’ll be sharing five new Florida Trail virtual puzzles for you to solve and enjoy from home. Take a journey through the FT landscape, wherever you may be. 🌴
Visit our new FTA Puzzle Page to play!
12th Annual Ididahike
March 6 – 7, 2020
Inverness, FL
Community Outreach Manager, Van Tran, writes:
The 12th Annual Ididahike earlier this month in Withlacoochee State Forest was tremendously fun. Every partipant was pleasantly welcomed with beautiful weather, an awesome assortment of hikes, and happy fellow campers. This was the Suncoast Chapter’s first time hosting this annual event. Ididahike draws in FTA members and chapters from throughout the state as well as new Florida Trail hikers. The Suncoast Chapter did a fantastic job planning and coordinating this year’s Ididahike!
Alternative Spring Breaks
Southern New Hampshire University n Micco Bluff
March 9 – 13
Central/South Florida Trail Program Manager, Jenna Taylor, writes:
Forgoing the traditional Spring Break trip to Florida to lie on the beach and get a tan, these 12 students from Southern New Hampshire Univsersity along with two falculty advisors came to serve the Okeechobee community. Through a partnership with the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project and the Florida Atlantic University Riverwoods Field Lab, the students lined up a week of service and learning; inlcuding two days working on the Florida Trail.
The students, of varying degrees and stages in their college education, learned a great deal about Florida ecology as Van led the group through a presentation and tested their knowledge through a game of FTA Cranium.
In two teams, the students worked on a section of the Micco trail section with the Tropical Trekkers chapter. The groups spent time pausing to discuss the views, wildlife and plants they spotted along they way. “I had no idea Florida could look like this,” a student shared, “It is not at all what I pictured.”
“These students devote themselves to service,” said Jeremy one of the falculty advisors, “They plan all year for this trip but they also serve year round.” Every night, the students shared about their day and how it had impacted them. “Everyone absolutely loved the trail days” said student coordinator Maddie, “It was hot work but we all really enjoyed seeing Florida this way and learning together.” On their final day in Okeechobee, the students presented to fifth grade students at North Okeechobee Elementary School about their experience. They shared photos, what service means and about the importance of caring about the environment. SNHU hosts these trips annually and hopes to make working on the Florida Trail a tradition for years to come.
Rochester Institute of Technology in St. Marks NWR and Apalachicola NF
March 8 – 14
Panhandle Trail Program Manager, Adam Fryska, writes:
For several years now, the FTA has partnered with the American Hiking Society to recruit college groups for the Alternative Spring Break programs along the Florida Trail. As the name suggests, these events provide an alternative to the typical college spring break experience, giving student the opportunity to perform meaningful service work while learning about the Florida Trail, our unique natural environment, and the communities along the trail.
This year, a group of 10 students from the Rochester Institute of Technology joined us for a week of trail work in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Apalachicola National Forest. Together, we explored the wetlands and long-leaf pine forests of this region, maintaining several miles of trail in the Port Leon Wilderness and along the Sopchoppy River. We also had the unique opportunity to work with Framing Our Community to tackle a major bridge repair project; the students contributed to the tear-down of an ailing bridge near the Porter Lake campground, removing rotten decking and handrails so that rebuilding efforts could proceed. All told, we had an incredibly productive week!
These types or programs are just one example of how the FTA is working to build the next generation of trail supporters and conservation advocates. Many of these students come from urban areas and have little or no experience with hiking and backpacking, let alone trail maintenance. Over the course of a week, they push themselves well outside of their comfort zones, coming to thrive in long days spent outdoors performing tough, physical work. It’s inspiring to see this transformation, and we’re looking forward to working with many more Alternative Break groups over the years to come.
Advanced Sawyer Certification Course
Ocala National Forest
February 25 – 28
Central Florida chapter volunteer, Elaine Fisher, writes:
This past February 25-28, the USDA Forest Service provided a chainsaw workshop for volunteers and cooperating organizations, including the FTA.  Students from all over the country, all involved in trail maintenance on National Forests, hailed from as far away as Texas and Wisconsin.  Several represented The Back Country Horsemen or all terrain bicycle organizations.  All had the same goal: to improve our skills and qualifications with chainsaw use. The Florida Trail Association had four participants: Jeff Glenn, North Florida Trail Program manager, Abe Christian, FTA Technical Advisor, Brad Henderson from the Western Gate Chapter, and Elaine Fisher representing the Central Florida Chapter.
The instructors had the highest qualifications: Ernie Wiltsie the USDA Region 8 / 9 Saw Program Manager and Pete Duncan, the USDA National Saw Program Manager with assistance from John Bronson and Chris Jarc, the Ocala National Forest Saw Coordinator.  David Haberl from the Green Mountain National Forest trained sawyers on cross-cut saw.
After a day in the classroom reviewing saw use policy, safety, and technique, we spent the next three days in the Ocala National Forest getting hands-on training and evaluation. In addition to working on our skills, the time in the field provided an excellent opportunity to network with the other sawyers. Challenges vary across the country, but we share much more. We all came away with improved technique and confidence, excellent feedback, and a renewed saw certification, some at a higher level. The ultimate goal is for the FTA to qualify our own sawyer evaluators and we are very close to achieving this.
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