Hikers, bikers, roller-bladers, paddlers, and horseback riders: quite a few more trails and paths could crisscross Florida in the future, and the state wants to know where you’d like them.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Greenways and Trails has released a new draft map and plan of priority paddling and land trails for the entire state. You can review and comment at a meeting from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at Boca Raton Community Center, 201 W. Palmetto Park Rd.
“We’re trying to show the opportunities to create an alternative transportation network,” said Samantha Browne, assistant chief of the Office of Greenways and Trails. “We want people to look at the maps at a local level and make sure we’re not missing anything. Do they agree with the priorities identified?”
The plan seeks to expand existing fragments of paved paths, dirt trails, and converted railroad lines into an interconnected network to make it easier to get from one place to another without driving a car. Florida’s nonmotorized pathways also would link to the East Coast Greenway — a proposed paved path running from Key West to the Canadian border.
In Miami-Dade County, where 200 miles of trails already have been built out of 500 miles of proposed facilities, the plan calls for extending the Miami Beach Greenway north along the coast to the Broward County line and creating the River of Grass Trail from Krome Ave. to Naples along Tamiami Trail. The Miami River Greenway, now only a couple of miles long, also would be extended further west. The South Dade Trail, which now runs 30 miles from the Miami River to Florida City, would be extended by a greenway running south to Key Largo, where it would connect with Monroe County’s Overseas Heritage Trail that follows U.S. 1 to Key West. The Overseas Heritage Trail is coming along nicely, according to Trish Smith, Monroe County’s transportation planning manager.
“It’s well on its way,” Smith said. “We have 20 miles of it going into construction this year.”
In Broward County, the map calls for completing segments of the East Coast Greenway. But it leaves out parts of the almost-completed Cypress Creek Greenway, which stretches from the ocean west to the Sawgrass Expressway. It also omits part of the New River Greenway, which will go from the Everglades conservation levee to Secret Woods Nature Center. Those omissions are expected to be corrected during the review process.
Exactly how all these pathways will be funded is an open question. State and local budgets remain tight in a wobbly economy, but David Henderson, transportation planner for the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization, says he’s optimistic the plan can be executed over the long term.
“It requires a lot of partnerships and creative thinking to get these projects done,” Henderson said.
As an example, Henderson cited Miami-Dade’s M Path, a pedestrian and bike trail along U.S. 1 that was largely accomplished by the Miami-Dade Transit Authority.
Herb Hiller, a former longtime Miami-Dade resident now living in Deland who serves as vice president of the nonprofit Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation, said expanding the state’s trail network will benefit the economy.
“If we’re going to get people to travel to Florida, the way to do it is to have long-distance and loop trails that will get people to make a journey out of it and stay more than a week,” Hiller said.
He added that loop trails around towns stimulate local businesses and improve residential property values — not to mention improving the environment.
“Trails are terrific because if you take people out of cars, you’re doing important things to clean the environment,” Hiller said. “It fits very well to where we want to be heading.”
Following public workshops, a final draft will be presented to the Florida Greenways and Trails Council for final approval in December.