Dunedin officials unveil one of their new trail town signs.
The Florida Department
of Environmental Protection (DEP) joined the city of Dunedin and local
officials April 19, 2018, to celebrate the designation of Dunedin as the first Florida
Trail Town. About 60 people attended while a steady stream of Pinellas Trail
users passed in the background.
Starting in the 1980s, Dunedin embarked
on a six-fold strategy to transform their town:
- Embrace the Pinellas
- Foster adaptive reuse
- Slow traffic –
pedestrian is #1
- Beautify, beautify,
- Build a sense of
- Do small projects
As a result, Dunedin’s downtown business
occupancy rate rose from 30 percent to 100 percent since the Pinellas Trail was
built through the town. Bike
shops, cafes, motels and other businesses cater to trail users.
“We couldn’t be
prouder,” said Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski. “Our downtown has thrived
around the trail and attracted folks from all ages and abilities. We like to
think of the trail as the main artery of our community.”
Florida State Parks Director Eric Draper represented DEP at the event. Governor Rick Scott could
not attend, but said in a statement, “In Florida, we are incredibly
proud of our state’s beautiful environment and DEP works relentlessly to keep
Florida’s outdoor spaces and trails pristine for the millions of families and
visitors that enjoy them each year. I want to congratulate the city of Dunedin
on being named the first Florida Trail Town. Trails not only provide
outstanding opportunities for recreation, but they also help boost the local
economy, generating nearly $60 billion each year and supporting nearly 500,000
recognize Florida’s Trail Towns, DEP’s Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT)
encourages interested communities to conduct self-assessments to gauge their
strengths and weaknesses in relation to nearby trails and users. Trail Town
candidates are then considered for approval by the legislatively established
Florida Greenways and Trails Council. Designated Trail Towns are featured on
the Office of Greenways and Trails website
and given metal signs that can be placed at trailheads and town gateways. Businesses are also given trail town stickers.
By Maggie Ardito, President, St Johns River-to-Sea Loop
Did you know the Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail (C2C) has a sister? Two years ago the Florida Greenways and Trails
Council designated the St Johns River-to-Sea Loop (SJR2C) a top-priority for Florida
SUNTrail funding behind the C2C. Both trails start at Titusville and proceed northwest to DeBary,
where the SJR2C continues north to Palatka, then heads east to St Augustine
before turning south to close the loop
at Titusville. As the second sibling, the loop has had to fight for attention. While
not as famous as her more sophisticated and urban older sibling, she is not shy
about flaunting her natural beauty and country charm. Slightly longer than the Coast to Coast at
over 265 miles, the loop boasts more springs, state parks, historic sites,
scenic beauty, beaches and farm experiences.
The loop has another advantage – a dedicated nonprofit. The
SJR2C Loop Alliance was formed in 2016 to advance, advocate, promote, and
protect the loop. In August 2017, the alliance was awarded a grant
to develop SJR2C maps. Last fall we held
a three-day summit and we’re already planning the 2018 summit. We established the
Tri-County Agritourism Corridor, a rural farming belt where tourists can visit local businesses, museums and attend annual events. We work
closely with transportation planning organizations, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the five counties along the loop to help close the remaining gaps
and celebrate closings. We work with
towns around the loop to achieve OGT’s Trail Town designation.
Putting the St. Johns loop on the map is key. New maps will benefit tour
guides and marketing material. We partner with Florida’s Scenic Byways program
to identify nearby destinations. We highlight
trailheads like DeBary Hall, a magnificent 19th century hunting estate that will
become the hub of a historic and natural corridor, drawing people into
We envision a time when cyclists fly to Orlando
and take a trail or the Sun Rail to the loop for extended tours – as millions of
us fly into Amsterdam today. Cycle-tourists are generally low-impact, environmentally-conscious, quiet, slow-moving,
and eager to discover less-visited places.
Help put the loop on the map. We’re always seeking volunteers and are
interested in reaching out to other trail-groups to share experiences.
Photo of Braden River by Posie Haeger
A paddler’s recent encounter with an otter on the Braden River in
Southwest Florida is a good reminder to always practice safety when enjoying
Florida’s natural resources. While paddling, remember:
- Be sure everyone in a vessel is wearing a personal flotation
device and has easy access to a whistle.
- If you see wildlife, it is OK to take pictures and watch them,
but always keep your distance from wild animals.
- Paddle with a buddy, or make sure someone knows where you are
and when you will be embarking and returning from your paddle.
Carry a manual bilge pump for emptying water in a kayak or canoe.
Know where you are – intimate knowledge of the water body and surrounding terrain makes it easier to assess exit and rescue strategies.