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Re: [ft-l] Florida Trail thru-hikers

I agree with you in certain respects.  I've seen and heard many different
opinions expressed about the FT/FNST in the 18 years I have been involved,
first as a volunteer and now as a staff member.

One of the best things I have seen come about in the last couple of years -
due in large part to the imagination of Dick Schuler and the work of Kent
Wimmer and now also Howard Pardue - is an increased awareness of the FT as
an entire unit.  For so many years we - all of us: maintainers, hikers,
volunteers and staff - have thought of the trail in bits and pieces.  In the
past couple of years I think we have come to think of it more as a whole
entity.  And the concept of the whole trail is greater than the sum of it's
constituent parts.

Do we need to keep pushing for completion of the thru-trail and targeting
long-distance hikers to come hike it?  I say "Yes".  Do we need to remember
that the vast majority of the users of our trail are day and weekend hikers?
Again, I say "Yes".  Do we need to develop great maps aimed at meeting the
(sometimes conflicting) needs of the FS planners, the trail maintainers and
the hikers?  "Yes".  Do we need to work as hard on the loop and side trails
as on the continuous trail?  "Yes".  Do we need to target new trail
development to where the majority of the FL population lives and works as
well as filling in the (sometimes remote) gaps in the continuous trail?
"Yes".  Do we need to think of ways to get the word about the FT out to
Florida residents as well as visitors from other states?  "Yes".  Do we need
to work more closely with all state and county agencies to make sure that
the FT is given due weight in their planning considerations? "Yes".

 People all over the world recognize the name "Appalachian Trail", even if
they have no interest in hiking.  I bet not 10% of the population of Florida
knows about the "Florida Trail", even those who have maybe walked portions
of it in local parks.  I know for certain that not 10% of AT long-distance
hikers are aware of the FT and many of those who HAVE heard of it think it
is all walking in swamps.

Everything we do as volunteers and staff needs to be aimed at making each
part of the trail as great as it can be and getting the word out to as many
target audiences as we can.  Dick Schuler has even proposed that we work
(over the next few years) to develop a couple of short
handicapped-accessible sections with campsites, etc. along our trail. Think
of the publicity that could bring to the FT to be the first National Scenic
Trail to offer something like that!  We HAVE TO STOP thinking in terms of
bits and pieces and start thinking of the whole trail.  Not just the
continuous trail, not just the loop and side trails and not FNST versus FT.
Everything we do to enhance one aspect of the trail will help all others.
Every bit of publicity we can get on one section of trail will help the
whole trail.  Every landowner we can convert to our side will help in the
conversion of other landowners.  Every public audience we target, whether
it's long-distance hikers or day hikers or weekend backapckers or just plain
wannabes will help.  There's just no room for competition among different
parts and users and maintainers of the trail, we have to all work together
or the whole thing will fall apart.

Sorry, I got a little carried away there.  :-)  I'll get off my soap box now
and listen for a while.


> Deb, with all due respect to EVERYONE who's ever worked on the FT,
> rights for the FT, done administrative work for the FT, gathered and led
> crews for the FT, etc., IMHO there seems to be a real division of thought
> long-distance hiking on the FT.  I am NOT (and never intend to be) a long
> distance hiker, however, I have heard some negative thoughts on
> hiking expressed in several ways.  To paraphrase

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