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[ft-l] Keeping Hiking Trails as Hiking Trails

I ride a mountain bike as well as hike, altho I'll probably never do enough
of it to really call myself an mtb'er.  I'd like to throw one more thing
into the discussion and that is the geology of Florida.  With our very thin
layer of top soil it doesn't take much to lose it and expose the hard sand
underneath.  And it doesn't take much usage for the hard sand to become
soft, deep sand.  In Wekiwa Springs State Park user groups and the SP built
separate systems of trails.  When the mountain bikers had churned their
trails to 6-inch-deep sand they didn't want to use them anymore
(understandably) and got the SP to open our hiking trail to bikes.  Wiley
Dykes straightened out the local problem by helping the mountain bikers find
other locations for their trail but it points up the fact that there are a
few places where mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians can utilize the
same treadway and many other areas where they cannot - simply because of the
terrain and soil conditions.

As for what the FTA can do regarding illegal usage of our trail, here are a
few ideas.

The FTA needs to be more pro-active in the way we build our trail.  Our
trail should not be placed on roads - even forested "jeep trails" - if at
all possible.  Doing that is simply begging for trouble.  Just as one
example, many FTA folks have complained about the mountain bike usage on our
trail on lands owned by the SRWMD.  But SRWMD has an explicit policy that
roads (including jeep trails) on their property are open to all recreational
users.  The solution is to build trail, not utilize existing treadway in
spite of the advantages that provides to us for maintainence.

The FTA needs to be careful with the maintenance we do.  We have to make
every effort to maintain the FT to the standards stated in the Trail
Maintainence Guide.  That means keeping the footpath fairly narrow and
looking like a footpath, not a road.  Several sections of our trail are
mowed and clipped 6-feet or more wide, encouraging both non-motorized and
motorized use.  Several sections of our trail are maintained with tractors
resulting in not only very wide paths but also leaving tire ruts that
encourage other users.  Heck, if I'm out in the woods and see a 6- to 8-foot
wide pathway with tire tracks running along it I assume it's a road open to
all users and so would anyone else.

We need to be particularly concerned about trail junctions and
intersections.  As much as possible trails for other users should be limited
and those that occur should intersect our trail at a 90 degree angle.  This
makes for a definate and readily apparent turn and we need to sign it

We also need to sign our trails better and do a better job at trailheads of
indicating that the Florida Trail (in most locations) is for pedestrian use
only.  As I am out and about on the Florida Trail I see a lot of illegal
usage.  I usually make a friendly comment about the trail being a footpath
and they need to find another trail for their activity.  But in many cases
there is nothing indicating this even at the trailheads, much less on the
trail.  We know that those orange blazes mean hiking trail, but most other
users do not.  You can't condemn people for not following the rules if the
rules are not clearly posted.