Florida Trail Association

Remembering Bill Arbuckle

Tosohatchee, 1979

Bill Arbuckle
Indian River Chapter: 
Trail Maintainer (first Section Leader at Tosohatchee)

In Remembrance of Bill Arbuckle
by Doug Sphar

Bill Arbuckle was the first Section Leader at Tosohatchee.  Bill assumed that role shortly after the State purchased the property in the late 1970’s.  Bill started surveying the trail there early in 1979, before the property was opened to the general public.  He organized weekend-long work outings where volunteers camped at the now gone Hoot Owl Hilton hunting camp.  During the summer of 1979, Bill offered me a position as TrailMaster.  Trail work was stalled by a Labor Day weekend hurricane that brought massive flooding to Tosohatchee.  Even though Tosohatchee was not open to the public, he got permission to lead FTA hikes on the flagged, but not completely cleared trails.  One of these hikes was very eventful. Late in the afternoon as our group neared the trailhead at the old Beehead Ranch House, Bill mentioned that there was an eagle nest nearby.  Without notifying anyone, a curious hiker darted off the trail to seek the nest and promptly got lost.  Back at the trailhead, Bill quickly noticed the absence of the hiker.  A group of us fanned out in the immediate area and some others started driving the service roads while honking horns.  As the light started to fail, Bill and his wife Bonnie went to the residence of the on-site manager.  In that era, there were no ATV’s but there were staff horses based at Tosohatchee.  The manager called in additional rangers and they saddled up and headed out on horseback with head mounted flashlights, while Bill and Bonnie waited at the residence.  Eventually, the errant hiker was located about 10:00 PM.

Bill was a rocket scientist, who worked on missile development at the Martin Company, a predecessor to Lockheed Martin.  He left that to found his own successful consulting engineering firm. Bill eventually sold that firm and he and Bonnie moved to a cabin along the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina.  He recommended that I take over as Section Leader somewhere around 1981.