Yesterday, Jay Humphreys, Communications Director with the St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors and Convention Bureau, reported to Historic City News that on September 22, officials from five Florida counties and the office of Senator Bill Nelson will meet with Congressman John Mica at St. Augustineâ€™s Castillo de San Marcos to finalize plans for a bike trail that will symbolize the Sunshine Stateâ€™s 500 years of history.
When completed, the 260-mle long trail, named the â€œSt. Johns River to the Sea Loop,â€ will provide bike riders with a paved, off-road trail that will rival some of the worldâ€™s best.
In St. Augustine, officials from Brevard, Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties, will meet at noon to sign a memorandum of understanding that will confirm their commitment to finish the trail by 2013â€”the year of the stateâ€™s 500th birthday.
Symbolically, the trail is the perfect birthday gift â€“ much of it passes through the heart of the stateâ€™s wildflower region and it was the wildflowers sighted by Ponce de Leon in 1513 that inspired him to name his discovery La Florida. In addition, the trail traverses the Sunshine Stateâ€™s entire history from the 16th century conquistadors of St. Augustine to the 21st century astronauts of the Titusville area. To symbolize this historic route, a conquistador and an astronaut will be in attendance at the signing ceremony.
The public is invited to attend the signing ceremony. It will take place at noon on Monday, September 22 on the front lawn of the Castillo de San Marcos.
The first 3.2 mile phase of the loop was completed earlier this year in St. Johns County, and the Trail Entrance is off State Road 207 just west of Interstate 95. The trail is open for any non-motorized transportation, which includes walking, biking and skating. The trail is being funded by the Florida Department of Transportation through federal transportation appropriations. When completed, the trail will be turned over to the State Office of Greenways and Trails for management. Locally, the St. Johns County Recreation and Parks Department is responsible for providing access to the trail through head sites along the route. The trail is also being supported by non-profits, conservancies and foundations.
For more information on the trail in St. Johns County, contact Bill Zeits with the Recreation and Parks Department at 904.209.0333.
Additionally, on November 15, Bike Florida will launch a week-long, inaugural bike tour along the trailâ€™s eventual route â€“ 40 miles of which are already paved and off-road. Riders on the tour will start in Palatka, pedal to St. Augustine, head down the coast to Daytona and Titusville, and then turn inland to Debary and Crescent City before retuning to Palatka. Sponsors of the inaugural tour include the Florida Wildflower Foundation, Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation, East Coast Greenway Alliance, and the Trust for Public Land.
For more details on the entire St. Johns River to the Sea Loop trail, contact Bike Florida Program Director Hope Howland-Cook, 352.244.0062
Photo credit: Historic City News photographer Kerry McGuire