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Enter search ... January 20, 2009
Ecotourism pedals into West Volusia
More News By Kay Semion
SPECIAL TO THE BEACON
Free Classifieds posted Dec 23, 2008 3:19:55pm
Calendar of Events When about 20 bicyclists rode into
Entertainment Volusia County’s Lake Beresford
Park on a brisk morning in late
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November, applause erupted from
Opinions an assembly of Florida trails
News About You For this rider, at least, our ersatz
celebrity was exciting. Alas, the
applause was not for us, but for the PHOTO BY KAY SEMION
Real Estate accomplishments of folks who built Founders — Bike Florida cofounders Linda Crider
the state’s 5,000 miles of multiuse and Herb Hiller praise Florida's trails at Lake
trails — and the trailinthemaking Beresford Park.
Beacon Magazines we had been riding for nearly a
Local Web Sites (Read about the highlights of
About The Beacon the St. Johns River to the Sea
The praise was welldeserved. The
same week we cyclists rode Bike
Florida’s inaugural 266mile eco
tourism trek known as the “St.
Johns River to the Sea Loop,”
Florida was designated by American
Trails as the “Best Trails State.”
PHOTO BY KAY SEMION
Related Topics On Ponce's path — Bicyclists stop at Ponce de
An eleventhhour reprieve for
JV sports, other activities in
Highlights of the St. Johns
River to the Sea Bicycle Loop
PHOTO BY KAY SEMION
Ready to roll — Bicyclists line up in Palatka before
And, American Trails also honored heading off on the weeklong St. Johns River to the
Bike Florida director Linda Crider of Sea Loop. The ride will be an annual November
Palatka for her years of work as a event.
tireless trails advocate.
Volusia County, for good reason,
was chosen as the state’s
celebration central. Its leadership in
trails was highlighted last year when
the Florida Cabinet finalized at least
a dozen years of advocacy among
many partners to acquire the 51
mile railstotrails track from
Enterprise to Titusville and north to
Edgewater. That purchase prompted
Bike Florida cofounders Crider and
Herb Hiller to initiate our bike ride
PHOTO BY KAY SEMION
Nov. 1522. The loop we traveled The sights — A Florida gopher tortoise and a
parallels the soontobebuilt rails wildflower in New Smyrna Beach — two of the
path. natural Florida sights on the St. Johns to the Sea
inaugural bicycle ride in November.
Crider and Hiller teamed with several
other organizations, especially the
Florida Wildflower Foundation, to
emphasize green tourism.
“We are now launching wildflower
tourism that will be comparable to
tourism that will be comparable to
the fall colors in the North,” Hiller
said at the Lake Beresford Park
Hiller, of DeLand and Drayton
Island, represents the East Coast
Greenway Alliance, which aims to
connect Maine with Key West via
3,000 miles of trafficfree paths. The PHOTO BY KAY SEMION
Recognition — Bicycles line up as their riders
St. Johns River to the Sea Loop will pause for ceremonies at Lake Beresford Park in
be a part of that. DeLand. There, trails advocates were recognized
for Florida's being named the Best Trails State by
GRAPHIC COURTESY BIKE FLORIDA
To the sea — This map shows the 266mile
bicycle trail dubbed "St. Johns River to the Sea
In September, leaders from five counties, the state and the federal government met in
St. Augustine to sign a pledge to complete the paved trail by 2013 — in time to
celebrate the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of “La Florida,” named
for its abundance of wildflowers.
On Nov. 21, leaders from across the state convened near a pavilion along the yearold
Lake Beresford Park trail, part of Volusia County’s Spring to Spring Trail.
Represented were Florida’s Office of Greenways and Trails, the state’s office of the
RailstoTrails Conservancy, the Florida Wildflower Foundation, the Trust for Public
Land, the Florida Bicycle Association, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Rep. John Mica’s
office, the Volusia County Council, and more.
DeLand City Commissioner Charles Paiva, who rode the Loop with us along with his
mother, Aida Paiva, read a proclamation from the DeLand commission, recognizing the
county as a leader in green tourism.
Volusia County Council Member Pat Northey was also among the celebrators and
Northey steadfastly worked for more than a dozen years with perhaps a dozen
partners to put together the railstotrails buy. And, it was Northey who persuaded the
County Council in 2004 to dedicate $1 million a year from the ECHO fund for trail
development. ECHO is the 0.2mill special tax voters approved for "environmental,
cultural, historic and outdoor recreation" projects.
That wasn’t an overwhelmingly
popular move, but the $1 million
in dedicated funding assured
development of the county’s
Spring to Spring Trail, which
includes the canopied routes in
Lake Beresford Park and the
adjacent trail leading to Blue
Spring State Park (which opened
in June), plus trails connecting
Lake Monroe to Gemini Springs.
So far, about a third of the 28
mile Spring to Spring Trail has
been paved, using the ECHO
funds as leverage for other grant
and award money.
John Harper, designer of the trails and manager of the Volusia County Trails Program,
participated in the St. Johns to the Sea ride as a critical member of our support team.
Here’s the big deal for West Volusia: The state railstotrails buy will allow Volusia
County to extend its Spring to Spring Trail, linking it to the newly opened Green
Springs Park on EnterpriseOsteen Road as a trailhead for the railstotrails trek that
will link us to Brevard County — and eventually to Seminole County’s paved “Cross
Seminole Trail,” as well as to multiuse asphalt trails in Orange County and beyond.
That trail also coincides with the River of the Lakes Heritage Corridor tourism
movement, led by Renee Tallevast, to make West Volusia a destinationtourism spot
for wildflower viewing.
As part of the St. Johns River to the Sea Loop, we cyclists were educated on
wildflowers and native plants. Among our stops was Stetson University, where we
lunched at the President’s House overlooking the Vera Lea Rinker Native Plant
President Doug Lee, who will retire in May, will leave a legacy of converting the
campus landscaping to native plants wherever possible.
The St. Johns River to the Sea Loop ride, which will be repeated every November, is all
about ecotourism. Most communities we visited not only enthusiastically welcomed
us, but also embraced the concept.
In Putnam County, leaders talked about their efforts to make Palatka a hub for
multiuse trails that emphasize healthy lifestyles, environmentalism and tourism.
St. Johns County Commissioner Cyndi Stevenson — who, with husband Henry, rode
with us on the Loop — sees bicycle and multiuse trails as a way to revitalize her
county’s historic connection to the St. Johns River.
In Flagler County, officials greeted us at Betty Steflik Park and talked about
countywide efforts to develop trails along the Atlantic Ocean, Intracoastal and more.
Titusville had special representation on the tour. Mayorelect Jim Tulley joined us for
three days on his commuter bike — keeping up, most of the time, with the faster
riders — and led us into Veterans Memorial Park, where city, county and tourism folks
and an astronaut cheered us on as the Rocky theme song echoed through the park’s
Tulley and other Brevard County leaders are sold on the benefits of ecotourism and
bike trails. Former County Commissioner Truman Scarborough was a main partner
with Northey and Hiller in the 51mile railstotrails buy.
The paved trail, when complete, will go by the park system’s Space Walk of Fame, the
Chain of Lakes Park, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Harry T. and
Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park and Cultural Center (honoring the civilrights leader
and his wife, who were killed on Christmas Day 1951, when their home was
Many Florida communities, including those in Volusia County, understand that
bicycling and ecotourism are intertwined. The trails in Florida are designed to traverse
through cultural, historical and entertainment sites.
Consider the St. Johns River to the Sea route as a prime example. We rode from the
historic Palatka, once a popular stop for steamboat cruising, to St. Augustine, the
nation’s oldest continuously occupied Europeanestablished city, to Daytona Beach,
the home of NASCAR racing, to Titusville, home of the astronauts.
It is fitting that we ended up for the last two days in the verdant western countryside of
Volusia County, where there is a countyendorsed commitment to green enterprises
(including tourism) and to a highquality paved trails system in natural settings.
A footnote: Volusia County’s segment of the 51mile rails trail is moving forward. John
Harper reports a portion from Providence Boulevard to State Road 415 has received
environmental and other permits, and is in the design stage. Grants have been applied
for to bring the trail out to Pell Road.
— Writer and editor Semion has logged more than 5,000 miles on her bicycle this
year. She is owner of Semion Communications, based in Port Orange.
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