The following letter was written to Florida senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio. It’s self-explanatory. There is a lot riding on what these senators could do for trails in America.
November 18, 2015
Senator Bill Nelson
1301 Riverplace Blvd., Ste 2010
Jacksonville, FL 32207
Dear Senator Nelson:
Here is an issue that is also an opportunity. The National Trails System was created by Congress in 1968. There are now eleven trails, including our own Florida Trail, identified as National Scenic Trails. They are the gems of our hiking trails nationally. However, only the Appalachian Trail has a continuous, protected right-of-way with protected scenic views. All the others have gaps subject to closure. With a half-century of experience, it’s time to assess this issue and chart a future course.
I would like your support in closing these gaps. The timing is good. Wild, featuring Reese Witherspoon on the Pacific Crest Trail, was in theaters earlier this year as was A Walk in the Woods, featuring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte on the Appalachian Trail. In September, the DEP’s office of Greenways and Trails used a half-dozen public meetings around the state to solicit comments from the public on Florida’s trail system.
We request that you ask the National Park Service to conduct a study to determine the current status and future needs of our National Scenic Trails and assure continuity by closing the gaps and preserving the wilderness experience for those who hike them.
We see no down-side for you in making this request and suggest that it could enhance your environmental record. Trails promote health, and hiking is one of the most popular and inexpensive forms of outdoor recreation, a source of tourist spending and economic development. According to the Outdoor Industry Foundation, annual consumer spending on outdoor recreation is nearly double the consumer spending on gasoline and other fuels. 5000 members of the Florida Trail Association would support you in making this request.
Founder, Florida Trail Association, 1966
Co-Founder, American Hiking Society, 1976
Director, HikaNation, 1980-81
Founding Publisher, American Hiker Magazine, 1988
Founder, Big City Mountaineers, 1989
President, Hiker’s Grand Slam, 1998-2005
President, Kern Trekking & Travel, 1999-2005
Author, Trail Reflections, 50 Years of Hiking and Backpacking, 2011
Founder, Hiking Trails for America, 2013
Founder, Friends of the Florida Trail, 2014