Page 1



Winter 2017 Volume 34 Issue 1

Big Cypress Volunteer Work Party

Scouts Leading the Way on the Florida Trail Footprint

Florida Trail Association Winter 2017



Florida Trail Association


Contents Departments and Features


5 President’s Message

16 Big Cypress Blaze


Western Gate Walk

26 Suwannee Steps


Southern Scoop

28 Panhandle Passage

23 News from the North

14 Apalachee Angle

30 Volunteer Chapters

14 16 2017 Big Cypress Volunteer Work Party by Alex Stigliano

FEATURES 5 Building More Than Trails Promoting The

Florida Trail

by Carlos Schomaker


Dedication of the Gulf Islands Section of the Florida National Scenic Trail by Helen Wigersma

11 Volunteers Take On Trail Improvement Projects The 2016-2017 Season

Was Very Productive by Kelly Wiener

14 Meet the new USFS Intern!

Dara Osher Joins the Teaml by Dara Osher


5 8

23 Scouts Leading the Way on the Florida Trail

Volunteering to Repair or Replace Trail Signage by Jeff Glenn



26 Work Continues on the Suwannee to Aucilla Gap by Simone Nageon de Lestang


28 Welcome FTA'S First Panhandle Rep


Adam Fyrska Brings A Passion For The Outdoors


by Adam Fyrska Winter 2017


Footprint The Magazine of the Florida Trail Association

FLORIDA TRAIL ASSOCIATION 5415 SW 13th Street Gainesville, FL 32608 Toll-Free: 877-HIKE-FLA Tel: 352-378-8823 email: fta@floridatrail.org website: FloridaTrail.org Facebook.com/FloridaTrailAssociation Digital Magazine: Issuu.com/FlaTrail


President: Carlos Schomaker VP Trails: David Waldrop VP Outreach/Development: Holly Parker VP Governance: Megan Digeon Secretary: Leslie Wheeler Treasurer: Pam Hale Directors: David Denham • Peter Durnell Auz Gage • Greg Knecht • Jim Powell Jan Wells • Adam Wiegand


Administrative Director: Janet Akerson • 352-378-8823 Membership and Retail Coordinator: Diane Strong • 352-378-8823 Trail Program Director: Alex Stigliano • 828-333-1529 Panhandle Regional Representative: Adam Fryska North Regional Representative: Jeff Glenn • 352-514-1455 Central/South Regional Representative: Kelly Wiener • 518-369-9057

FLORIDA TRAIL FOOTPRINT Editor: Alex Stigliano Layout: Sean Lucas

©2017 Florida Trail Association All rights reserved. Contributors retain copyright to their work but give the Florida Trail Association permission to use to promote FTA and the Florida Trail. Articles are subject to editing for clarity and space. Materials will be returned if accompanied by a self-addressed stamped envelope. Opinions, observations, and endorsements made within the Florida Trail Footprint do not necessarily reflect those of the board or staff of the Florida Trail Association.

The Footprint (ISSN 1064-0681) is published quarterly by the Florida Trail Association 5415 SW 13th St, Gainesville, FL 32608 Bulk rate postage paid at Gainesville, FL. Postmaster: Send change-of-address form 3597 to: Footprint, 5415 SW 13th St, Gainesville, FL 32608. The Footprint is printed with soy-based inks on paper with post-consumer content


Florida Trail Association


The Footprint is published by the Florida Trail Association, a volunteer-based nonprofit organization focused on Florida hiking and trail building. Since 1966, the primary mission of our organization has been the care and protection of the Florida Trail, a 1,300-mile footpath across the Sunshine State - Florida’s own National Scenic Trail.


To provide outreach to our readers through informative articles that express appreciation for and conservation of the natural beauty of Florida; to inform our readers of Florida Trail Association business; and to provide information on Florida hiking and outdoor recreation opportunities.


Contributors are welcome to submit items for our various departments as well as trail and association-related news. Please contact the editor at communications@floridatrail.org to discuss ideas for feature stories prior to submission.



If you’re not already a member, join now. As a Florida Trail member, you receive a subscription to The Footprint magazine, membership in a local chapter, a local newsletter with local activities, opportunities for outdoor skills training, participation in regional and annual conferences and more. Call toll-free 877-HIKE-FLA for more information.


Reach a highly targeted demographic of Florida outdoor enthusiasts by advertising with us or becoming a regular sponsor. Your advertising dollars directly support production and publication of this magazine and assist the Florida Trail Association in fulfilling its mission. Call 877-HIKE-FLA or email fta@FloridaTrail.org for more details. Deadline for articles for the Spring issue of The Footprint is May 15, 2017.

President’s Message Building More Than Trails

Building More Than Trails Promoting The Florida Trail Carlos Schomaker FTA President


ecently I was forwarded an email message that Florida Trail Association (FTA) staff received from a gentleman who was incensed that a local chapter’s Meetup page had posted a trail map, probably for a chapter hike. His concern was that this was “wrecking what used to be a good trail.” The argument was that a detailed map on a Meetup page would “quickly spread the word” about this section of trail, and that within a few short years, the visiting crowds would be incredibly large. He then mentioned that visitors were already damaging the trail and dumping garbage, which he stated he would no longer pack out. The email ended with a warning that promoting the trail would lead to its demise. I’ve seen a few angry outbursts over the last several years while helming the FTA board of directors, and this one wasn’t that unusual. It was likely well-intentioned, and there may be real problems on this stretch of trail. Those will need to be handled. There’s no denying that any trail (or campground, or picnic area) can be damaged by overuse, carelessness, or malicious vandalism. Things can be done to minimize these problems; eternal vigilance is the price to pay for good trails. But the logical conclusions of this email message struck me as off-base and reminded me of a mindset we’ve seen before in the trail community: the belief that keeping our favorite places secret and stealth-cloaked will mean they stay pristine for us, just us – the people who deserve to be there. Although excessive popularity and overuse are indeed threats to natural recreational spaces, so are development, extraction industries,

pollution, climate change, and an apathetic citizenry that doesn’t fight for the protection of the outdoors. You can’t build a large group of trail defenders without letting people see what they’re defending. It’s hard to justify to county or state officials, subject to the influence of deep-pocketed developers or speculators, that a beautiful trail needs to have its corridor protected when it’s only used by fifty thru-hikers and a hundred weekenders a year (especially when those trail users don’t speak out about its value in a common voice). All the land managers we partner with on the FNST have to deal with a myriad of regulations, pressures, and initiatives from Tallahassee and Washington. Even the very existence of these National Scenic and Historic Trails is dependent on federal agencies being able to prove to Congress that there is a large and motivated sector of Americans that use and steward these special resources. Part of the FTA’s mission is ensuring that the people of Florida know about, enjoy, and are committed to protecting our trail. I would argue that we should do more outreach and promotion, not less, to make sure this trail has the resources it needs to be completed and maintained and protected. The issues of vandalism and trailside garbage will always need to be addressed, and having more people care about the trail, not less people, will help ensure the trail’s longevity. Excess traffic is a Footprint

Winter 2017


management issue as well. We’re not going to be able to keep modern, growing Florida away from a pristine natural corridor by hiding in it and hoping for anonymity. That was a short-term viable option once upon a time (say, 1980), when Florida had less than half the population it has now and the Florida Trail was a near-secret passion for several hundred volunteers, free of most forms of oversight and control from Official America. It’s not an option anymore, and burying our heads in the sand and wishing away all the headaches won’t help. The trail needs us, now, in the present, meeting current challenges. Speaking of not burying our heads in the sand, here are some “tough love” observations, based on a half-decade of working between FTA and our partners. 1. The Missions of the various National Scenic and Historic Trail non-profit organizations is primarily the support, completion, maintenance and protection of the respective trail that is stated in their names. (In our case, that would be the Florida National Scenic Trail [FNST, or FT for short], which since official designation back in the 1980s is a member of this storied group of trails of national importance.) That means those organizations’ structures, whether divided into local chapters or not, should serve that mission. Believe it or not, some successful National Trail organizations don’t have a chapter system like ours (Arizona Trail Association, Continental Divide Trail Coalition, and Pacific Crest Trail Association, for example). Across the spectrum of Scenic National Trail organizations, the tactics and strategies may be different, but the goals are the same. In any case, a National Trail organization’s structures and programs should support the mission. That’s not to say that other goals can’t be field6

Florida Trail Association


ed, but those goals (separate local trails, events, local chapters, etc.) should help support the main mission or at least not negatively impact the accomplishment of the main mission. That means local hikes that claim to be instrumental to bringing in new supporters should actually be promoted and run as such. Local groups or chapters should be seen as branch offices of the home office, not as sectarian splinter groups. Oh, and being a ‘sleeper cell’ probably isn’t a good goal for a local chapter, either. 2. Stagnation is death. Without fresh recruits (volunteers, supporters, staff) the goals of the organization become harder and harder to meet as time advances. In the world of small non-profit entities like FTA, losing relevancy to the outside world means a slow death spiral. The FTA has a small fan base with a deep devotion, but that alone will soon be insufficient—increasing pressures on public lands, competing commercial and recreational interests, budget cuts and political hostility need to be addressed by a larger constituency of trail supporters. Thinning volunteer ranks need to be bolstered. This is all doable, by the way. 3. While the FTA has been called a family, a religion, and even a cult, it’s not any of these. It is a non-profit business. It needs to stay solvent to continue doing its work, supporting the mission and our partners. It needs to meet certain state and federal requirements to keep its non-profit status. This cold reality is not a denigration of the feelings and memories and commitments that many people have to their own local group of friends or specific events or places. But it is a reminder that the business and mission of the FTA along with the resources needed to continue on successfully, are of primary importance. That’s the “fiduciary responsibility” of the Board and staff. 4. An organization with limited resources like the FTA has to focus on the things that matter. Actually, that’s true of any business that wants to succeed, but it’s critically important to an operation with a budget as lean as ours. Unfortunately, prioritization often means somebody is liable to get angry at the FTA. When that anger is legitimate, and something can be improved, honest efforts should be made to address the problem. When it is

not, the organization’s leadership must be able to recognize that devoting scarce resources to matters that don’t further the mission is counterproductive. Successful organizations learn this. The ones who don’t learn this spend their time spinning wheels. 5. A corollary to the last point: the FTA is a membership organization because it needs supporters who buy into its mission of ensuring a long-distance hiking trail through Florida. Membership dues are a positive vote, in a sense affirming people’s commitment to that lofty mission. They are not a bargaining chip that can be used to insist that we return to “How the FTA Things Were in 1978,” nor are they dues to a private club with premier services. Why is the FTA state office unable to act as a personal concierge service for everyone? Because a couple of overworked and underpaid staffers have to concentrate first on those business matters mentioned above. Why can’t FTA afford a crackerjack team of customer service specialists standing by for all whims and needs? Because the money isn’t rolling in, things cost money, and the culture of FTA monetary gifting has not yet caught up to the times. 6. Another corollary: Nobody is being forced to be a member. For example, let’s say I love kayaking, but I don’t approve of or enjoy the ritual human sacrifice that the local paddling club performs on every eclipse, I don’t have to join that club to still go kayaking. Although I might want to stay off local waters right before that eclipse! The FTA is the lead citizens’ agency working with private, local, state, and federal partners to support this amazing natural recreational resource, one of only 11 congressionally designated trails in the United States. We do really great things to provide that resource to all Americans. We do them not just for our own members, but for day hikers and weekend backpackers and thru-hikers and birders and fitness enthusiasts, and even our military war veterans trying to find peace and meaning in natural solitude. That noble service—making the Florida Trail possible for our fellow citizens-- is reason enough, in my mind, to support the FTA. It has been an honor and a pleasurable challenge working with you all to continue making the Florida Trail possible. Footprint

Winter 2017


Western Gate Walk by Helen Wigersma, Western Gate Representative

Dedication of the Gulf Islands Section of the Florida National Scenic Trail A dedication ceremony was held on October 23, 1994 to recognize official certification of Gulf Islands National Seashore 14.3 miles of trail as not only a new section of the Florida National Scenic Trail, but as the Fort Pickens area to be the “Western [sic] terminus of the FNST.” On this warm, humid Sunday afternoon over 35 people 8

Florida Trail Association

gathered for the event. According to the Program, speakers included Debbie Allen, FNST Supervisor (USDA Forest Service), Jerry Eubanks, Superintendent of Gulf Islands National Seashore, Karl Siderits, Supervisor, National Forests in Florida (USDA Forest Service) and Ethel Palmer, President, Florida Trail Association. According to an article in the Pensacola News Journal, it was noted that the Florida National Scenic Trail had been established in 1983, becoming one of only 8 national scenic trails. At the time of the Gulf Islands dedication only 370 miles of trail had been officially certified. Addition of this segment and recognition of it as the northern terminus were major milestones. Superintendent Jerry Eubanks pointed out that the FNST had the distinction of being the only national scenic trail “walkable throughout the entire winter.” Kent Wimmer, Board Member of FTA, who attended with his wife and 8-month old daughter, Allison, added that it was also the only national scenic trail which tracks along a beach. Ginger Moore, initial Chair of the Western Gate Chapter, and her husband, Edward, were recognized for their exceptional efforts in working with all parties – Gulf Islands National Seashore (National Park Service), Florida National Scenic Trail (USDA Forest Service) and the Florida Trail Association – to establish Gulf Islands as the northern terminus. The ceremony was followed by a hike on the first two miles of the new trail. Western Gate members in attendance included Ginger and Ed Moore, Vernon Compton, Peggy Grantham, Mary Pat Cross, Tom and Shirley Moody, and Patricia Copeland.

Dedication of the Florida National Scenic Trail Northern Terminus Marker 22 years after the dedication of the Florida Trail in Gulf Islands National Seashore (GINS), the USFS, in Partnership with the National Park Service and the FTA, dedicated the new FNST Northern Terminus marker. Representatives from the US Forest Service and GINS, and representatives from


the Western Gate Chapter, including founding Chair of that chapter, Ginger Moore, spoke to the small crowd of folks who had traveled from the nearby National Scenic Trails Workshop. These supporters all work for other National Scenic Trail organizations, and had traveled to the workshop from around the country. What started as a notional concept nearly two years ago was made a reality November 18, 2016. Fort Pickens deputy superintendent, Steven McCoy, imagined that the marker could be made to resemble the iconic arches of the nearby Fort Pickens. He and his team then began the work of designing and fabricating the marker from bricks used to rehabilitate damaged sections of Fort Pickens. The bricks are fabricated to look like the original bricks used in the construction of the fort. A bronze plaque was then added that declares Fort Pickens as the northern terminus of the Florida Trail. This plaque mimics the one used in the Florida Trail’s Southern Terminus marker located in Big Cypress National Preserve.

Gulf Islands NS Superintendent, Dan Brown, Ed Moore, Helen Wigersma, Shawn Thomas, and Ginger Moore pose next to the marker

Ginger Moore speaks at the Northern Terminus Marker Dedication

A small crowd of supporters from the nearby National Scenic Trails Workshop

Design drawing for the marker Footprint

Winter 2017



Did you know you can now easily spread your donation to FTA across several months or years?

Go to FloridaTrail.org and click

Donate Please consider putting your donation to FTA on a recurring basis. You decide the amount, you decide the frequency, you control your account, and it all benefits the FTA. By clicking on the donate button, you will be directed to our secure donation page from Network for Good. Network for Good is our partner and a is a leading giving platform for non-profit organizations.


No Ambulance. No Hospital. Miles from the nearest road. Hours, perhaps days from help. No rescuers are coming. What are you going to do?

Wilderness Medicine Training

Wilderness First Aid (WFA) & WFR Recert – 16 hours Wilderness First Responder (WFR) - 72-80 hours


Call Today: 352-870-9646

10 % OFF

for all Florida Trail Association Members

FloridaTrail.org 10

Florida Trail Association



Southern Scoop by Kelly Wiener, Central and South Regional Representative

Here are just some of the project highlights from the 2016-2017 season: Reroute through Three Lakes

Montie "Tex" Foster paints an orange blaze on the reroute.

Volunteers Take On Trail Improvement Projects The 2016-2017 Season Was Very Productive


ith the coming of spring, we wrap up another trail maintenance season on the FNST. In the Central/South region, the 2016-2017 season was a busy one. Reroutes, infrastructure improvements, signage updates, youth partnerships, Boy Scout projects and more all took place in addition to the regular upkeep that must be done on every foot of the trail, every year. Trail improvement projects like these

would be impossible without the help of our volunteers. Volunteers are often our eyes and ears on the ground, letting us know when improvements can be made that increase user safety, minimize environmental impact, improve scenic value or allow access for trail maintainers. In partnership with our staff and the local land managers that host the Florida Trail, improvement projects make the FNST grow and improve with each passing year. Footprint

Anyone hoping to thru-hike the Florida Trail can expect to get their feet wet at some point or another. But what some hikers quickly learn is that muddy conditions can often present a greater challenge than wading conditions. This was certainly the case in the northern portion of Three Lakes WMA through Gatorback Slough. When Indian River chapter volunteers scouted the area after recent rainfall, 300 feet the FNST through the slough was flooded, and the water covered a thick, sucking, shoe-stealing mud. In addition to presenting trail maintenance challenges, muddy trail conditions also can cause environmental impact. As trail conditions get muddy, some hikers are compelled to step to the firmer sides of the trail. Stepping off the designated trail to avoid mud or standing water can quickly lead to the creation of undesignated trails and trail widening, which can then lead to increased erosion and trampled vegetation. Indian River volunteers, in partnership with our staff and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission assessed the area and decided on a reroute that takes advantage of existing gravel park roads that are very seldom used. The reroute goes through many of the same ecosystems as the original route, but without posing environmental impact to sensitive wetland ecosystems. As an additional benefit, FTA volunteers can now access the area for routine maintenance with ease.

Pitcher Pumps in Prairie Lakes

Ensuring reliable access to water that can be filtered or treated and consumed is a crucial component of hiker safety. In some sections of the FNST, it may be flooded one week, and completely dry the next. In partnership with the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, pitcher pumps were installed at Parker Winter 2017


Section Leader Noreen Poor at Dry Pond campsite pitcher pump Hammocks and Dry Pond campsites in Prairie Lakes Wildlife Management Area. The installation included signage explaining that all water must be treated before consumption, and that the pump must be primed to operate.

Reroute through Yates Marsh

The FNST through Yates Marsh previously crossed a large drainage ditch by way of a bridge constructed using telephone poles and 2 x 6 planks. In recent years the deterioration of this bridge has made it dangerous to use, and so it was

Newly installed stile at Lofton Road Trail Head. 12

Florida Trail Association

removed in 2015. During the 2015-2016 hiking season, we experienced higher than normal precipitation rates—at times, this section of Yates Marsh had water levels above the waist, requiring hikers to “swim” across the trail! It quickly became apparent that in order to keep our hikers happy and safe, a reroute was in order. During a scouting session with the South Florida Water Management District land managers and FTA volunteers, a 1.5-mile route was choosen that takes advantage of administrative access roads (closed to the public), oak hammocks and open ranges that remain dry even after strong storm events. This change made use of more durable footpaths without sacrificing scenic quality. Tropical Trekkers chapter volunteers completed the reroute at their annual Volunteer Work Party held at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. In addition to clearing and blazing the new trail, a new stile and updated signage were installed at the Lofton Road trailhead to allow clear and easy access to the new route.

Kiosk by Noah Halavin

New Signage and Trailhead at Forever Florida

Forever Florida is an eco-tourism attraction in central Florida which hosts a portion of the FNST. Many thru-hikers have visited the Forever Florida’s visitor center and restaurant to book campsites, use restrooms or try their burgers made from grass-fed beef raised right on the property. The facility is a half mile from

Signage designed and painted by Indian River volunteer Janine Homery FloridaTrail.org

the nearest orange FNST blaze on Broussard Road. Still, many hikers are unaware of these facilities, so the challenge was to clearly connect the visitor center to the FNST. This would not only open up these resources to hikers, but would also raise awareness of the FNST among the thousands of patrons that pass through Forever Florida every year. The solution had three components: designate the visitor center an official FNST trailhead with a kiosk, blue-blaze a spur trail to the new trailhead, and add signage at the intersection of the trail, as well as both entrances to the property, and then note all of these additions to the FTA’s official FNST maps. Boy Scout Noah Halavin took on the kiosk as his Eagle Scout Project. He modeled the kiosk after ones seen in other nearby parks along the Space Coast and secured a lumber donation from Brevard Lumber in Titusville. These are just a few of the many improvements made to the FNST in the Central/South region. I encourage you to get involved with your local FTA volunteer chapter so you too can contribute to this truly unique and beautiful public resource. Happy trails,

er Kelly Wien

The Florida National Scenic Trail is a federallydesignated, non-motorized, recreation trail that meanders approximately 1,300 miles across some of the most beautiful, unique landscapes in the entire country. For up to date information visit the U.S. Forest Service online at http://www.FS.USDA.gov/FNST

FTA Partners with

1031 33rd Street, Ste 210 Denver, CO 80205 303-772-2723 http://www.EWB-USA.org/ See us in action on facebook http://j.mp/LSU_EWB Footprint

Winter 2017


Apalachee Angle by Dara Osher, USFS Graduate Intern

Meet the new USFS Intern!

Selfie by Econfina Creek

Dara Osher Joins the Team


o all the members and volunteers of the Florida Trail Association, it is my great pleasure to introduce myself to you! I am the new graduate intern for the U.S. Forest Service and I will be working on issues related to the Florida Trail together with Shawn Thomas, Megan Eno, and Simone Nageon de Lestang until I graduate in May of 2019. I am presently pursuing a Joint Masters in Urban and Regional Planning and International Affairs from Florida State University, a three-year program. My undergraduate degree is in International Area Studies from New College of Florida, a public honors college located in Sarasota. My studies have always emphasized a focus on China, sustainable development, tourism, anthropology, and international relations. Upon graduating college in May of 2013, I joined the U.S. Peace Corps and left for China at the end of June. For two years, I taught English to teachers and middle school students in Chongqing, China as a 14

Florida Trail Association

Peace Corps Volunteer, traveling around to remote areas and Thailand in my free time. In early July of 2015, I arrived back home to Florida and spent some time at home with my family after my two-year absence. In August of 2016, I began graduate school at FSU and realized how

(L to R)

well-suited I am to the study of urban and regional planning. In December, I interviewed and was selected to be the new graduate intern for the Florida National Scenic Trail. I am beyond honored to have this opportunity and I could not be more

Dara, Ashlee, and Jordan on the Florida Trail in Econfina! FloridaTrail.org

Two Penny Bridge

Lone mushroom cap on the FNST! excited to learn about my home state, its diverse natural environment, and the partnerships and volunteers that work so diligently to maintain the beauty of the Trail and our shared goal of completing it! While I had never heard of the FNST prior to applying for this internship position, I have quickly become enamored after reading the Trail’s Comprehensive Plan and learning about Jim Kern and the Florida Trail Association. Over the summer, I intend to spend as much time as I can on the Trail and intend to join Tallahassee’s local FTA chapter so I can volunteer beside you all. Last Friday, our office’s GIS intern, Ashlee, GIS technician, Jordan, and I drove out to the Econfina Creek Water Management Area of the FNST to hike and locate the bridges dotting the Trail. Well, we could not have asked for better weather. For all 9.5 miles of our hike, I never once felt lost as the orange blaze was always within eyeshot. With bright blue skies hanging above the canopies of trees, we chatted happily as we came upon the rushing water of the creek, stopping to take pictures (and selfies) whenever possible. When we reached Two Penny Bridge, I was astonished.

Who would have thought there’d be such a beautiful example of human capability strung up in the middle of the woods? The serenity of standing, rocking slightly, in the middle of the bridge, feeling fully supported and unabashedly brave. I felt fulfilled in that moment, and grateful for the opportunity to be in that spot and be a part of national and statewide efforts to further environmental conservation. We saw many other hikers (and one thru-hiker) on the Trail that day as

everyone knew to take advantage of such lovely weather. Of those on the Trail, only a few people were hiking it for the first time and I took the opportunity to offer more information about the FNST and its expansive length. On our way back to Two Penny Bridge, we encountered three FTA members and volunteers from the Panhandle Chapter: Shirley, Charlie, and Mary. They told us that they were the ones who built this part of the Trail! I swelled with pride and excitement at meeting these three adventurers, avid hikers who came to inspect their work and take care of any maintenance it required. As a South Florida native born and raised in the suburbs (my family was not very into anything that didn’t include a paved road), I found myself in awe of the passion behind the Florida Trail Association and its members. After taking a few pictures and selfies (featured below) and exchanging information, Ashlee, Jordan, and I finished up our hike and headed back to Tallahassee. I cannot wait for the next opportunity to hike the Trail, but also to meet with more FTA members and deepen my understanding of peoples’ connections to nature and the outdoors. Hope to meet you on the Trail!

r Sincerely, Dara Oshe

FTA members, Shirley, Charlie and Mary with Dara, Ashlee and Jordan Footprint

Winter 2017


Big Cypress Blaze by Alex Stigliano, Trail Program Director

2017 Big Cypress Volunteer Work Party


TA staff hosted the 4th annual Big Cypress National Preserve Volunteer Work Party February 3-11, 2017. This year the staff coordinated 2 crews – a 2-day front country work crew based out of Oasis Visitor Center, and a 5-day back country crew that set up camp near the 10 Mile campsite. Both crews were very successful, maintaining a combined total of nearly 18 miles of Florida Trail! Reblazing was much needed on much of the trail between 10 Mile camp and Oasis Visitor Center due to a prescribed burn conducted by Big Cypress NP administration in the Fall. The back country crew maintained trail just south of 14 Mile camp where just a mile north, a separate prescribed burn was being managed by the Preserve. The FTA crew and the Burn Boss (the position title of the person coordinating the controlled burn) remained in contact throughout the week to ensure the group’s safety. Please enjoy these photos taken throughout the week. If you would like to join our next Big Cypress NP Volunteer Work Party, please check our website in the Fall for more information on how to register.


Florida Trail Association



Winter 2017



Florida Trail Association


Footprint Footprint

Winter 2017 19 Winter 2017


20 Florida Trail Association 20 Florida Trail Association

FloridaTrail.org FloridaTrail.org


Winter 2017


For a Limited Time Only! Celebrate history of the Florida Trail

Order these and other cool Florida Trail merchandise online at

ftashop.floridatrail.org Celebrate and get the word out with our Sport-Tek® PosiCharge® Competitor™ Tee. The ST350-tee is what Alachua County Firefighters wear for comfort.

Ensure the Florida Trail’s Future.

Remember the Florida Trail Association in your will. Contact FTA at JanetAkerson@floridatrail.org or call 352-378-8823. 22

Florida Trail Association


News from the North by Jeff Glenn, FTA North Florida Representative

Scout master David Ogden looks on as his son Kevin and a friend install one of many new sign posts

Scouts Leading the Way on the Florida Trail Volunteering to Repair or Replace Trail Signage


outh engagement is a big part of what the FNST trail program is striving for these days and partnering with the Boy Scouts of America offers us a way to involve many volunteers and provide meaningful, hopefully life changing work for those that come out into our trail world. This trail season there have been over 1,500 hours contributed by a single scout troop from the Ocala, FL area, all on the eastern corridor of the Ocala National Forest. Over the course of the fall and early winter, three scouts looking to

Evan Bauman preps signs at home before transporting them to the Ocala. Maps and spreadsheets helped the scouts plan where signs would be located

achieve the rank of Eagle coordinated projects to repair and replace all the signage on approximately 60 miles of the FNST. No small feat, this job required a lot of logistics, team-work, volunteer recruitment, fund raising, and muscle. The work of inventorying all of the 650 sign pieces, with each individual sign and post being counted separately, took place in the summer of 2015 and was subsequently broken down into work plans based on the amount of work needed between major road crossings. The 72 miles from Clearwater Lake

Recreation Area and Rodman Dam was broken down into 10 sections. Each section had a designated spreadsheet with an accompanying work plan to make the job easier for the volunteers that would do the job. While this project was originally setup for FTA volunteers,


Winter 2017


“Mr. Glenn tried to tell us how much work would be involved but we couldn't really understand until we were actually out on the trail and working. It was very easy to underestimate how much time it would take.” ~ David Ogden

A young scout thoroughly enjoys the hard physical work of installing new signs when Scout Master Jeff Ogden of Troop 172 approached us looking for shovel ready projects, his timing could not have been any better. With three scouts looking for Eagle projects there was a lot of excitement about this project.

“My project included the very first segment of the Florida Trail. Our work coincided with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Trail. I felt like we were being a part of history.” ~ Evan Bauman Evan Bauman, David Ogden, and Kevin Ogden split the 60 remaining miles of trail into thirds and each began the work to get their individual tasks lined up. FTA provided all of the materials for the sign installation, including FNST signs, regulatory signs, road signs, distance signs, and posts. The scouts had to either remove, replace, add, or maintain the signs as they came to them along the trail which they found by using the GPS and sign data provided by the FTA. Much of the existing signage was in serious disrepair: burnt up, shot up, missing, or incorrect. The trail was ready for a signage face lift that was many years in the making and thanks to these scouts it was going to happen this season. 24 Florida Trail Association

Very quickly these young men and their cadre of scoutmates and parents discovered that hauling treated 4x4 posts, new signs, hardware, and tools though the woods was no easy feat. Add to this that their work started in the middle of September, and it is a sure bet to anyone that is used to working on the trail before October that there were some struggles. For many of these boys this was their first time doing manual labor such as this and this was definitely a challenge to overcome at first. As time went by, however, the crews learned the tricks and tips that would speed up the process and make the work smoother. From learning the best way to shuttle vehicles to how to best utilize digital technology, the projects became more streamlined.

“I never really thought about what goes into keeping up a hiking trail. This project helped me understand that a lot of different things go into making the Florida Trail a safe and enjoyable experience for hikers.” ~ Kevin Ogden Finding time in a young adult’s schedule, amidst all of the other activities and events, not to mention school work, is difficult which meant that the project was spread out over the course of several months. The last of the work wrapped up in late January and by that time, even with the cooler weather, the troop was ready to be finished with the work. After all the post holes were dug, signs mounted, and miles hiked, these scouts learned the invaluable lessons of hard work and the dedication it takes to complete a large project. It was fun, challenging and time consuming, but also seriously fulfilling. Achieving the rank of Eagle is something that scouts take seriously, something they think about for years ahead of time, and for these three newly minted Eagle Scouts, it is something that they will carry with them forever. FloridaTrail.org

David Ogden pulls a loaded cart through the woods carrying tools, hardware and new signs needed to get the job done Having new signage significantly improves the trail experience for the public in terms of trail quality and safety. The Black Bear chapter of the FTA continuously maintains the FNST on the Ocala National Forest to an exceptionally high standard, making it a gem of the entire trail, and with new signs completing this year’s maintenance season it really brings the trail to such a level of perfection. All trail users, FTA members and staff, and the staff of the Ocala National Forest owe a huge debt of gratitude to Evan, David, and Kevin for all of their hard work. The western corridor of the Ocala is slated to be re-signed in the winter of 2017 by another scout from Gainesville, FL. These 23 miles of new signs are seriously needed and it will bring all the 95 miles of the Ocala National Forest’s FNST trail up to standard. It should also be noted that all 20 miles of the Osceola National Forest were also re-signed this trail season bringing the total number of trail miles to 115 in the north region. Needless to say it has been an extremely productive season both for routine maintenance, deferred long term projects, and building up youth hours.

Florida Trail Association is a Proud Partner with Warrior Expeditions

Warrior Expeditions supports combat veterans transitioning from their military service by thru-hiking America’s National Scenic Trails.

Visit WarriorExpeditions.org for more information Footprint

Winter 2017


Suwannee Steps by Simone Nageon de Lestang, Graduate Intern

A view of the undeveloped Big Bend coastline.

Work Continues on the Suwannee to Aucilla Gap


s you all know, the Florida National Scenic Trail has gaps. You may also know that the US Forest Service, the FTA and the Florida National Scenic Trail Coalition are avidly working to complete the trail and close our major gaps. But how does this work? We would like to illuminate this process and discuss some of the challenges and opportunities faced by the Florida Trail as we try to close one of our largest gaps, from Twin Rivers State Forest on the Suwannee River to the Aucilla River. Before we go into the fun details about the gap, we want to talk a bit about the policy that guides how we can develop the Florida Trail. The Florida Trail was designated as one of 11 National Scenic Trails under the National Trails System Act of 1968. For trail segments to be certified, the act requires that the trail meet certain safety standards, such as not sharing the road with cars,


Florida Trail Association

and that the trail protects and connects outstanding resources throughout the state. Developing trail that meets these standards is the top priority of our program, not only because it is required but because we want to ensure that the Florida Trail continues to capture the natural beauty of our state for generations to come. We are also guided by the Florida National Scenic Trail Comprehensive Plan of 1986, which set up the framework for managing the trail. According to this document, any new routes that we pursue should be selected within our designated Planning Corridor, essentially a 20 mile wide band drawn on a map of the state in the 1980s. We are sure that you can imagine that the landscape of urban development and public land ownership has changed since then. As it stands, if we were to stay completely within this corridor, in some FloridaTrail.org

of our large remaining gaps, it would be difficult to develop trail that was more than a roadwalk. This has been one of the greatest challenges our program has faced in connecting the Florida Trail in this region. So now that we have our bases covered, let’s talk about this gap! Historically, the Florida Trail used a network of public and private roads lined by timber operations, hunt camps and private homeowners to travel between Suwannee and Aucilla River. Though this was the most efficient route, it did not meet the criteria for certification as official Florida National Scenic Trail. To tackle this issue and to find a permanent route, our office underwent a Corridor Location Review in 2016. We called this a corridor location review because, once selected, this will serve as the main route with the intention of closing any short roadwalks or gaps that remain. This process entailed looking at the gap with our partners, determining any potential feasible routes to complete it and then analyzing each of these routes to come up with a final recommendation. The team who reviewed the gap included the U.S. Forest Service, FTA leadership and longtime partners such as Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Forest Service and Suwannee

Withlacoochee West Conservation Area

Upper Aucilla Conservation Area

Withlacoochee East Conservation Area

90 £ ¤

Madison Blue Spring

Hixtown Swamp Conservation Area

Suwannee River State Park Middle Aucilla Conservation Area

Source of Maps: ESRI

Twin Rivers State Forest

Middle Aucilla Conservation Easements

Econfina Conservation Area

US90 Multiuse, option A

Suwannee Rive r Wi lde r ne ss Tr ail

Sources: Esri, HERE, DeLorme, USGS, Intermap, increment P Corp., NRCAN, Esri Japan, METI, Esri China (Hong Kong), Esri (Thailand), MapmyIndia, © OpenStreetMap contributors, and the GIS User Community

Avalon Plantation Conservation Easement


US 90 Multi-Use Corridor - Option A

Twin Rivers State Forest Aucilla Wildlife Management Area

Florida National Scenic Trail Econfina Conservation Area Proposed Route

Sources: Esri, HERE, DeLorme, USGS, Intermap, increment P Corp., NRCAN,





Suwannee Aucilla River Gap


8 Miles


TRAIL Water RouteSCENIC Alternative

Lafayette Blue Springs State Park Wes Skiles Peacock Springs State Park Peacock Springs Conservation Area

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

Forest Capital Museum State Park Little River Conservation Area Big Bend Wildlife Management Area




Upper Steinhatchee Conservation Area





Mallory Swamp Restoration Area

Bailey Brothers Conservation Easement


Big Bend Wildlife Management Area

O Sources: Esri, HERE, DeLorme, USGS, Intermap, increment P Corp., NRCAN, Esri Japan, METI, Esri China (Hong Kong), Esri (Thailand), MapmyIndia, © OpenStreetMap contributors, and the GIS User Community

Southern route, option C Florida National Scenic Trail

River Water Management District. Proposed Route Roadwalk 0 In this process, we looked at three Water Route Alternative alternative corridors to complete the gap including a connection using US 90 with the potential for paved, multiuse connector trails; the current rural yet somewhat scenic roadwalk; and a highly scenic route which followed both the Suwannee River and the Big Bend coastline. The review team considered factors including feasibility, outstanding resources, public landownership and costs, to determine the best possible corridor for the trail. Our partnership agreement with the FTA provides a collaborative framework for upholding FTA values in the trail development decisions and this further directed the decision-making process. After the Corridor Location Review was presented to the Florida National Scenic Trail Coalition, the overwhelming Sources: Esri, HERE, DeLorme, USGS, Intermap, increment P Corp., NRCAN,


Southern Route - Option C

conclusion was that pursuing a Aucilla scenic Suwannee River Gap FLORIDA NATIONAL 2.5 5 10 15connected 20 route which outstanding Miles SCENIC TRAIL public lands along the undeveloped Big Bend coastline, travelled through new potential gateway communities and followed both the Steinhatchee and Suwannee Rivers was the superior corridor. This connection will provide permanent protection and access to the world-class scenery unique to Florida. The new corridor will also meet the original purpose of the Florida National Scenic Trail: to provide the public with a permanent, non-motorized recreation path connecting nationally significant and outstanding natural, scenic, cultural and historic resources within the state. There are some downsides to this corridor, including it being partially outside of our Planning Corridor and the additional mileage it creates to close the gap. Because of this conflict, the U.S. Footprint

Forest Service has been working for the last year to refine our Planning Corridor so we can designate and certify this choice. Another difficulty of this route is that it would bypass the Aucilla River segment, a personal favorite for many volunteers and U.S. Forest Service staff. This section will certainly be maintained under partnerships with the FTA and land manager as an important feature of the Florida Trail. Overall, we believe that these challenges are far outweighed by the opportunity to connect the public with some of the wildest places in Florida. Volunteers are not only the backbone, but the spirit of the Florida National Scenic Trail and your feedback is critical to the trail’s success. As we finalize the selection of this corridor, we hope to ensure that your desires and concerns for this gap are addressed. We also hope that you share the excitement of FTA leadership and our land managing partners in creating new trails on some of the last remaining undeveloped coastal environments in Florida! If you want to learn more about the National Trails System Act, the documents that guide the management of the Florida Trail or this Corridor Location Review, head to our Land and Resources Management page or check the FTA’s website. Please provide any comments about this Corridor Location Review to the Florida National Scenic Trail Program Manager, Shawn Thomas, at shawncthomas@fs.fed.us. The U.S. Forest Service will strive to continue to provide partnership updates on this and other exciting projects through the Footprint, so please stay tuned for updates in the next issue. Happy adventuring, The U.S. Forest Service Team

WE NEED YOUR FEEDBACK! www.fs.usda.gov/main/fnst/landresources-management Please Download and Review the Suwannee to Aucilla Corridor Location Review by following this link: tinyurl.com/CorridorReview Then share your thoughts by filling out the survey by following this link: tinyurl.com/CorridorReviewSurvey Winter 2017


Panhandle Passage by Adam Fryska, Panhandle Regional Representative

Welcome FTA'S First Panhandle Rep Adam Fyrska Brings A Passion For The Outdoors


'm excited to introduce myself as the FTA's first ever Panhandle Regional Representative! I'm newly settled in Panama City Beach. This home base is roughly centered between the Northern Terminus in Gulf Islands National Seashore, and the Suwannee River – the western and eastern boundaries of my region. I'll be working as an advocate and coordinator for trail work along the Florida National Scenic Trail in this region. While I'm a newcomer to Florida, the culture of long-distance trails and the volunteers who make them possible is something I'm familiar with and passionate about. I've been privileged to experience the National Scenic Trail

28 Florida Trail Association

System as both a thru-hiker and trail steward, and it's no exaggeration to say these trails have shaped the course of my life. We all have our own reasons for valuing these resources; for me, the solace of wild places and long walks is an essential counterpoint to living a modern life with all of its noise and distraction. I value getting outside, traveling a long way on my own two feet, and experiencing a natural world that seems to be ever-shrinking. Whatever your personal reasons for wanting to get "out there," for a couple of months or a couple of hours, the Florida Trail provides that opportunity. That's what brings me here! In the last few weeks, I've traveled


along the length of the trail, from the white sand beaches of Gulf Island National Seashore to the subtropical swamps of Big Cypress National Preserve. I've worked with enthusiastic college volunteers who were excited to make their mark, as well as experienced trail work veterans who've been building and maintaining the Florida Trail for decades. The variety of landscapes and environments the trail covers is incredible, and I'm inspired by what the FTA has accomplished in organizing so many people to make it happen. In the coming months I'll continue to travel throughout the Panhandle to meet volunteers and land managers, get a feel for trail conditions throughout the region, and learn about the goals and projects of the various Chapters. If you have anything to bring to my attention, please get in touch! You can reach me at: adamf@floridatrail.org. Cheers,

a Adam Frysk


Winter 2017


FTA Volunteer Chapters List of Florida Trail Association Chapters ALLIGATOR AMBLERS CHAPTER Charlotte, Collier, and Lee Carl Kepford 239-253-4255 AA Sub Chapter FISHEATING CREEK Glades and Hendry Margaret England 863-674-0695 APALACHEE CHAPTER Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla Dawn Brown 850-668-0091 BIG CYPRESS CHAPTER Miami-Dade and Monroe David Denham 305-667-8643 BLACK BEAR CHAPTER Flagler, Putnam, and Volusia Linda Taylor 386-774-0734

When you join the state-wide Florida Trail Association you automatically become a member of your local chapter based upon your zip code. However, members may attend the activities of any chapter and may transfer to any chapter they wish simply by informing the FTA Office. Florida Trail activities are organized by our local chapters and are led by authorized volunteer activity leaders. Many of our activities are open to the general public so you can get to know us before you join. Activities can be found online at www.floridatrail.org Click on “About Us” then click on the “Upcoming Events” button on the left. Local activities are usually also listed on the chapter websites, Facebook pages and Meetups. Click on “About Us” then “Our Chapters” for links to local chapter sites. Participants in activities must sign an Assumption of Risk form and agree to accept personal responsibility for their safety and the safety of accompanying minors. Always contact the activity leader in advance for more information, to let them know you are attending, to find out any special requirements or equipment for the activity, and to check for any last minute changes. For more information about chapters and links to websites/meetups/photos go online to FloridaTrail.org/about-us/chapters/ then select the chapter

CENTRAL FLORIDA CHAPTER Orange, Seminole, and Osceola Bill Turman 407-359-8318 CHOCTAWHATCHEE CHAPTER Walton and Okaloosa Richard Kersten 850-683-0803 SANDHILL CHAPTER Alachua, Levy, Gilcrist, and Marion Mitch Sapp 352-332-2065 HAPPY HOOFERS CHAPTER Broward and Hendry Megan Digeon 954-829-8494 HEARTLAND CHAPTER DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, and Polk David Waldrop 863-605-3587 HIGHLANDERS CHAPTER Lake and Sumter Gene Bouley 352-314-9335 INDIAN RIVER CHAPTER Brevard and Indian River Richard Loudon 321-638-8804 LOXAHATCHEE CHAPTER Palm Beach Roy Moore 561-422-2189 NORTH FLA TRAILBLAZERS CHAPTER Baker, Bradford, Clay, Duval, Nassau, St. Johns, and Union Tracey Tyrrell 904-910-1397 30

Florida Trail Association

PANHANDLE CHAPTER Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington Mary Gauden 850-250-6698

SUWANNEE CHAPTER Columbia, Dixie, Hamilton, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee, and Taylor Norm McDonald 904-776-1920

SUNCOAST CHAPTER Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Sarasota Sue Bunge 727-504-8574

TROPICAL TREKKERS CHAPTER Martin, Okeechobee, and St. Lucie Jim Couillard 772-485-8367


WESTERN GATE CHAPTER Escambia and Santa Rosa Helen Wigersma 850-484-0528

MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION AND GIFT FORM ORDER BY PHONE 877-HIKE-FLA OR ONLINE AT WWW.FLORIDATRAIL.ORG Name ____________________________________________ Daytime Phone Number ______________ Address ___________________________________________ Email ____________________________ City ______________________________________________ State _______ Zip __________________

MEMBERSHIP CATEGORIES Please mark one of the boxes below if you are joining or renewing your membership in the Florida Trail Association

Name ___________________________________

Trail Steward ($35) Trail Builder ($50)* Trail Advocate ($100)* Trail Protector ($500)* Trail Champion ($1000)*

Address ___________________________________ City ______________________________________

*Includes spouse and children under 18.

I do not want my address shared with FTA-affiliated organizations



ANNUAL FUND Provides funds to ensure a steady income stream for Florida Trail Association operations. It’s how we keep the lights on and The Footprint coming.


TRAIL PROTECTION FUND Supports land acquisition and trail construction projects with the ultimate goal of protecting the trail corridor and completing the entire Florida Trail. Independently funds programs like F-Troop, trail crews, and outreach to implement programs wherever they are needed within the Florida Trail System.


MAP FUND Provides funding for updating the Florida Trail’s maps and databook.

State _____________ Zip _____________________

Employer/Occupation ______________________

Daytime Phone Number _____________________

Spouse Name _______________________________

Email ___________________________________

Spouse Occupation _________________________

Ship membership package to

Number of children _________________________

The Footprint magazine?

Me Digital

New Member Printed

I learned about the Florida Trail from ______________________________________________________

MY GIFT TO THE TRAIL I am making a gift to the Florida Trail Association and want my gift designated to: Annual Fund

Endowment Fund

Trail Protection Fund

Map Fund

My gift is In Memory of ____________________________ In Honor of ______________________________

ENDOWMENT FUND Provides an ongoing endowment to the Florida Trail Association from interest earnings. It is the gift that keeps on giving.


Please send a gift membership to:



MEMBERSHIP TOTAL _______________







CHECK: Make checks payable to “Florida Trail Association”. CREDIT CARD:



American Express


Credit Card Number: _______________________________________________________ Exp. Date: ____________ Signature: ____________________________________ Security Code (3 or 4 digits): ________

To order merchandise from the Florida Trail General Store, visit


or call the Florida Trail office at 1-877-HIKE-FLA. Footprint

Winter 2017


Florida Trail Association

5415 SW 13th St., Gainesville, FL 32608

NON-PROFIT ORG PRSRT STD U S Postage PAID Pontiac, IL Permit No. 592

Create Your Volunteer Profile Online! You can start volunteering today! www.FloridaTrail.org/NewVolunteers/ 32

Florida Trail Association


Profile for Florida Trail

Florida Trail Association Footprint Winter 2017  

Florida Trail Association Footprint Winter 2017

Florida Trail Association Footprint Winter 2017  

Florida Trail Association Footprint Winter 2017

Profile for flatrail