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[ft-l] New trail route in North Florida

As some of you may know, the state of Florida purchased a 48-mile abandoned
Florida and Southern Railroad right-of-way last month.  This was the reason
for Joan Hobson and Howard Pardue's testimony before the Florida Cabinet
meeting in June. The property will be owned and managed by the Office of
Greenways and Trails and eventually will include trail for hiking, biking
and, in a few areas, equestrian use.  A couple of designated camping areas
are also being planned.  This route runs from just outside of Camp Blanding
up to Lake Butler.  I know several thru-hikers have taken this route the
last couple of years, but FTA couldn't put it on our maps because
technically it was still trespassing.  Now it is legal to hike the old rail
bed and it will be on next year's FT maps.  This rail-bed will eliminate the
3 alternative road-walks on Maps 16 and 17.  The rail line is indicated on
the FT maps.

Joan Hobson and I checked out a few places along the rail bed last week
while working up in Osceola NF.  There are a few areas of private property
incusions that OGT will have to straighten out, but hopefully by next years
hiking season we will have trail blazed on this section.  For most of its
route heavy mowing is all that will be required.  The one section of the
railbed that is not hikable is over the New River.  There is about a
1000-foot railroad trestle over the river, but the southern 150 feet or so
burned in a fire.  Eb wrote in his book about crossing this bridge on the
support beams and described it as a harrowing experience.  We scouted a
3-mile road-walk that will take hikers around the bridge until it can be
re-built.  Depending on the condition of the support pilings this could be a
minor or a very major building effort.

Also while up there we spoke with the city manager of Lake Butler.  This
coming week the city council should give final approval to purchase a piece
of land along the railbed in downtown Lake Bulter.  This will be used for a
trailhead parking area and park.  An adjacent city block is also being
looked at for a new city hall and extension of the park.  During our
discussion Joan and I tried to stress the importance of over-night
accomodations.  Our argument ran along the lines of:  a hiker passing thru
is likely to buy a cold drink and a candy bar.  A hiker staying overnight is
likely to buy dinner, breakfast, shop in the grocery, pharmacy, outdoor
store, do laundry, etc.)  Don't expect any immediate results, but perhaps we
planted a seed. Lake Butler has the potential of being a truely great trail

Deb Blick