The Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) Coalition Meeting was held in Tallahassee on June 8, 2015. This is a semi-annual meeting to foster FNST Coalition members support and engagement in the development, maintenance, protection and promotion of the statewide trail through a 5 year strategic plan. The FNST Coalition is administered through the United State Forest Service (National Forests in Florida) with members representing federal, state, local agencies and non-profit organizations.
Topics of this meeting included discussions on current strategies to enhance the FNST. Dale Allen, Executive Director of the Florida Greenways and Trail Foundation, led off with an excellent report on several options to help close some of the larger gaps in the trail system. Closing these gaps won’t be an easy task, but it’s good to see that there are people diligently working on it.
Dr. Taylor Stein, Associate Professor with the University of Florida, gave his usual enlightening report on identifying where (through strategically place counters) and who (data collection) is indeed hiking the FNST, and how trail standards play a big part in outreaching to the public and getting their participation. An equally informative session was conducted by FSU graduate student Caitlin Murphy on the relationship between good health and outdoor activities such as hiking.
Special guest, Dr. Helen Miller, gave an update on the White Springs Experience project in Hamilton County, and their ongoing plans of making White Springs a natural eco-tourism destination that will highlight trails in the area, such as the FNST.
By the end of day the main topic would have to be the subject of partnerships and how important it is to have FNST land managers actively contributing to their segments and how their involvement impacts the whole FNST. You could easily guess that funding came up as the lion share of the discussion.
At this time I would be amiss if I didn’t recognize the newest member of the FNST Coalition and the new Forest Supervisor of National Forests in Florida. Ms. Kelly Russell, long time employee of the US Forest Service, is a native of Alabama and grew up in Panama City, Florida. She replaces the former and retired Forest Supervisor Susan Matthews who is now living somewhere up in Colorado (apparently her first winter didn’t chase here back to Florida).
In closing I would like to say that the dynamics and involvement of the FNST Coalition members and their dedicated work, affirms that the development of a coalition was a most excellent idea and that the importance of the FNST is not to soon fade away.
-The Florida Outdoor Recreation Crusader -