, February 5, 2009 (ENS) - Florida Governor Charlie Crist has proclaimed February to be Florida Hiking Trails Month to celebrate the more than 2,500 miles of hiking trails on the state's public lands.
The weather is mild, hurricane season is months away, and paved rail-trails, urban trails through cityscapes and wilderness trails criss-cross Florida from the longleaf pine forests of the north to the islands of the Florida Keys.
"The Florida Trail System is an incredible network of hiking trails that exist within an hour's drive of most major population areas and tourist destinations in Florida," said Deborah Stewart-Kent, executive director of the Florida Trail Association.
"This extensive system offers a myriad of places for people to connect to natural Florida for a walk in the woods," she said. "Wonders abound along the Florida Trail for people of all ages to experience and enjoy in Florida's great outdoors."
The Florida Trail, one of eight federally designated National Scenic Trails, now includes loop and linear trails on public lands throughout Florida.
Hiker on the Florida Trail (Photo by Brian Buffington)
This giant trail will ultimately extend 1,560 miles from the Gulf Islands National Seashore in the Florida Panhandle to Big Cypress National Preserve in south Florida, forming a continuous wilderness corridor.
The Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Greenways & Trails manages eight state trails, in addition to the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway.
The Greenway is presently Florida's longest green corridor, stretching 110 miles from the St. Johns River near Palatka to the Gulf of Mexico near Inglis.
Jena Brooks, director of the DEP Office of Greenways & Trails, said, "Florida has long been committed to preserving its natural lands and creating a system of greenways and trails that make it easy and affordable for people to access the beautifully wild and green spaces that entice us outdoors this time of year."
Through Florida Forever, the state's land acquisition program, $4.5 million is allocated every year to purchase and preserve land for Florida's greenways and trails.
In November, Florida earned national recognition for vision, initiatives and management of trails throughout the state. Florida was honored with the first-ever Best Trails State Award presented by American Trails, the only national, nonprofit organization working on behalf of all trail interests.
One Florida trail offers a family-friendly way to celebrate Mardi Gras.
The Children's Mardi Gras Walk hosted by the Blackwater Heritage Trail Citizen Support Organization features a costume contest and family walk along the Blackwater Heritage State Trail near Milton in the Florida Panhandle.
Free and open to the public, the two-hour event takes place Saturday, February 21 from 10:00 am to noon. For more information contact Gerard Greco, 850-983-5338.
For information about hiking the Florida Trail and volunteering with the Florida Trail Association, visit www.floridatrail.org or call toll free 877-HIKE-FLA.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2009. All rights reserved.
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