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November 2019 E-blaze

November 2019
Seminole State Forest Ribbon Cutting
On November 2nd, about 70 participants met at the Cassia Trailhead in Eustis, FL and joined us in celebrating the completion of a 5.3-mile reroute through Seminole State Forest. This new section removes 3.2 miles of paved road walk along busy SR 44 and roads in the Royal Trails housing development. Thank you to everyone who joined us at this wonderful ribbon cutting and inaugural hike!
“The FTA community is comprised of thousands of individuals across the state, all working toward a shared vision. The completion of the Seminole State Forest is exemplary in that it brought together a hardworking and diverse array of partners working toward this vision. FTA volunteers and staff, the Florida Forest Service, the US Forest Service, the Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation, the Central Florida Zoo, REI Winter Park and local Boy Scouts can all be credited with helping to move this gap closure forward. With ~270 miles of roadwalk remaining, there will be many more reroutes in the years ahead as we work to close gaps in the trail. It’s important we celebrate each new mile of trail and appreciate the journey we have undertaken to get there.” – FTA Trail Program Director, Kelly Wiener
To learn more about this tremendous project, check out Kelly’s article in our previous Winter 2019 Footprint Magazine.
In honor of this new section of trail, the FTA had customized patches made for this event. These patches feature the scrubby flatwoods within Seminole State Forest which are the unique habitat for the endemic Florida Scrub Jay.
These patches can be purchased through the FTA Store.
Panhandle Gathering 2019
Celebrating the re-opening of trails since Hurricane Michael
The FTA Panhandle Chapter hosted a regional gathering on November 8-11th at Compass Lake in the Hills, southwest of Marianna, FL in Jackson County.
This year’s Gathering was a big “Welcome Back” to the Panhandle section after Hurricane Michael. The three days were packed with day hikes as well as Trail Angel Sign-Making (replacing signage that was destroyed in the hurricane) and landscape painting workshops. Among the scheduled hikes were tours of the lower and upper sections of Econfina Creek, where FTA volunteers and staff alongside US Forest Service and Framing Our Community sawyer teams have worked tirelessly this past year to clear. It was incredible to witness the tremendous amount of work these trail crews have accomplished so far to make the Florida Trail in this region safe and accessible again to hikers.
There is still a significant amount of remaining storm damage to be cleared… But as we hiked through what has already been accomplished, we were reminded that every big feat is completed one step at a time.
The Panhandle Chapter is hosting a number of upcoming maintenance events to continue to revive these sections of trail. Help is needed and welcomed. Please join them in this important effort: https://www.meetup.com/hiking-central-panhandle/events/
Building More Than Trails
Student Groups Continue to Give Back to the FT
On November 9th, we were thrilled to have to opportunity to partner with the University of Central Florida’s Outdoor Adventure Club in maintaining a section of the Florida Trail in Chuluota Wilderness Area. The 14 students in attendance, many of whom were first time trail maintainers, were treated to sightings of wildflowers, rosemary scrub and a bald eagle.
UCF has been a loyal partner of the FTA, joining us for two trail maintenance days each season for the past several years. We look forward to our continued partnership and another maintenance day this spring.
On November 16th, students from the UF College of Dentistry, including members of the American Association of Women Dentists (AAWD), joined FTA staff and the Black Bear Chapter for a day of trail maintenance in Juniper Prairie Wilderness. The group was greeted with refreshingly chilly temperatures as well as many overnight hikers and day users enjoying this popular stretch of the Florida Trail. The dentistry students were quick to pick up trail maintenance, paying thorough attention to detail and immediately working dexterously with the hand tools. The parallels between trail work and dentistry work became apparent to us that weekend. The students were able to clear roughly 2 miles of the FT in 6 hours– a significant contribution for a day’s work in Juniper considering the slower, limited pace of non-mechanized trail maintenance that is required within protected wilderness areas. We are grateful for our valuable partnerships with college and youth groups throughout the state. We plan to host another maintenance event with AAWD in the spring!
The Choctawhatchee Chapter Seeks
Participants in the Panhandle
Gum and Big Fork Creeks @ Eglin, Volunteer Work Party
January 11 and 12, 2020
Come help the Choctawhatchee Chapter install fiberglass roofing shingles on two major boardwalks on the Eglin Reservation. The project objective is to reduce potential hiker injury from slippery, wet boardwalks and bridges on the Florida Trail in Walton and Okaloosa Counties. The project began in 2016 with the donation of shingles from a local contractor. Since then volunteers have installed shingles on over 5,000 feet of boardwalks on Eglin. The objective for this phase is Gum and Big Fork Creeks. Between the two creeks there are over 1,500 feet of boardwalks. Crews will be transporting and installing shingles on these boardwalks.
Volunteers should bring: Plenty of fluids, lunch each day, insect repellent, gloves, hard hat, hammer and utility knife. Due to the nature of the work and location, NO PETS will be permitted during the workday. Safety equipment will be provided.
This is a two-day chapter lead (weekend) work party with the option of signing up for one or both days on the Choctawhatchee Chapter Meetup. LINK: https://www.meetup.com/Florida-Trail-Choctawhatchee-Chapter/events/htsvkrybccbpb/
Volunteers are responsible for their own lodging and meals. The crew leader, Tom Daniel (850 341-1389), is camping at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park starting Friday, Jan. 10th leaving Monday, Jan. 13th. Others are welcome to join him at the park! LINK: https://www.reserveamerica.com/explore/fred-gannon-rocky-bayou-state-park/FL/281065/overview If there is enough interest the chapter will host a pot luck meal at the park on Saturday night.
Donated Shingles
Remembering Ray Morgan
Western Gate Chapter Member, Ed Williamson, writes:
On October 14, 2019, Western Gate Chapter lost one of its most valuable and productive Trailmasters. “Blackwater Ray” Morgan, as he was known to his fellow trail volunteers, worked on the trail from 2010 until his passing in 2019. Ray loved the trail and dedicated countless hours to its upkeep and enhancement. He was assigned trail segments in two different FNST Sections at the same time and did an excellent job of keeping them in top shape. Using his considerable skills, he built bridges and benches and made trail signs. He put his welding experience to good use in repairing equipment such as mowers and trailers.
In addition to maintaining his own assigned trails, he spent many hours helping other Trailmasters with theirs, always being quick to respond when help was requested. He was well known for refreshing and adding blazes to many miles of FNST trail throughout Blackwater River State Forest, sometimes accompanied by a friend, and often with one of his “trail dogs”, one of which was aptly named “Blazer”. While more than 550 volunteer hours were logged for Ray, the real total was much higher, because unfortunately, much of his time working on his own was not reported.
Ray’s contributions were not limited to the outstanding work he has done. When a new tool shed was needed, he stepped up with a significant donation to help purchase it.
Ray was recognized in 2011 by Western Gate Chapter as “Trailmaster of the Year”. In 2012, he received the “Trail Leader Award” from Western Gate. FTA awarded him with the “John Weary Trail Worker Award” for his “extraordinary efforts as trail maintainer” in 2014.
Despite a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2015, Ray was back out on the trail in a short time. Although complications from the injuries and rheumatoid arthritis resulted in progressive physical limitations and pain, he continued to push through it all to pursue his passion for trail work.
Ray’s dedication to the trail continued into the last weeks and days of his life. After his condition had deteriorated to the point that he could barely walk, he continued to do prep work at his home for a badly needed bog bridge on one of his assigned trail segments. Cutting and drilling pieces for the bridge, his efforts were instrumental in finally getting this bridge constructed. As a longtime advocate for more and better signage along the trail, right up until his last days, he was asking other Trailmasters and Section Leaders what trail signs he could make for them, a task he felt he could still perform.
Blackwater Ray was truly a one-of-a-kind trail volunteer whose contributions to the trail inspire us all and will not be forgotten.
FTA Board of Directors
Nominations for the Florida Trail Association’s 2020 Board of Directors are now being accepted
Board Director, Darryl Updegrove, writes:
The call for nominations is now open for FTA’s 2020 Board of Directors, and we are seeking candidates for at-large Board Member positions and three Officers.
FTA has a 15-member Board. Nominations may be submitted for Vice-President Membership, Vice-President Trails, Treasurer and four at-large board members. Terms for officers is two years, and at-large positions is three years, beginning after the annual meeting on April 4, 2020.
The Nominating Committee will select the slate based on nominations received. A slate of officers and at-large Board members for 2020 will be voted upon via electronic voting beginning sometime early 2020. In addition to this, we will include a mail-in voting options in the Winter Footprint. The elections will be announced at the April 2019 Annual Meeting. Serving on FTA’s Board of Directors is a rare chance to help the organization face challenges, provide creative solutions, contribute to a fast-growing trail program, and
affect long-term positive change. Board service also offers you the opportunity to grow personally and professionally, to develop valuable skills in non-profit governance, gain unique experience and make lasting connections with a team of other passionate and motivated professionals.
Please consider serving on the Board and submitting a nomination for the 2020 Florida Trail Association Board of Directors. For more information on our current Board of Directors, and Board Member Responsibilities, click here. To review the FTA Bylaws as well as the Duties & Powers of the Board Officers, click here.
Please send your nominations to Darryl Updegrove at: dupdegrove@gmail.com.
Nominations should include the following information:
1. Name of Nominee, address and contact information (including email address);
2. Brief statement or cover letter outlining why the nominee would like to be a board member;
3. Resume or short background on the candidate in question (work history, non-profit experience, involvement with the FTA, interests etc.); and
4. Reference (optional).
Thank You,
Darryl Updegrove
FTA Nominating Committee Chair
***Deadline extended: NOMINATIONS CLOSE DEC. 31, 2019 ***
Save the Date
FTA Southern Regional Conference
December 13 – 15, 2019
Jupiter, FL
Click here to register for this event.
3rd Annual Wild & Scenic Film Festival
12th Annual Ididahike
March 6 – 7, 2020
Inverness, FL
Florida Trail Association | 1-877-HIKE-FLA | floridatrail.org