by Herb Hiller
Two rules for East Coast Greenway advocacy 1) Pick low-hanging fruit, and (2) Walk through open doors.In effect, don’t look gift horses in the mouth, and while you’re at it, plant seeds.
(If I don’t get critical posts about what I have to say, at least please do complain about the crashing metaphors in how I say it.)
It’s not news that the Greenway Alliance operates as lean as veggie-eating athletes in triathlon training. The Alliance doesn’t build trail. We don’t maintain trail.
Like Blanche DuBois, we depend on the kindness of strangers, though if not helplessly like Tennessee Williams’ ruined dreamer, nonetheless unashamed about benefiting from the work of others.
Case in point: come May, we expect the Trail Council to designate 30 miles of route between Miami and Homestead, which is the gateway to the Florida Keys. That’s a full one percent of the entire Greenway between Florida and Maine. And you see, it’s a gift. Over some 30 years, Florida’s first commuter rail system known as Metrorail and the southern leg of that corridor that’s now the South Miami-Dade Busway, have incorporated an off-road path that makes this 30-mile stretch uniquely multi-modal with bikes on train, bikes on bus, and the trail that also runs the length of the corridor.
As I say, low-hanging fruit.
Walk through open doors?
That would be accepting the offer of Florida’s Office of Greenways and Trails to enlist a number of additional counties in a research program that the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council is ready to start. ECFRPC is following up a Greenway Alliance proposal that started with a forum on trails and economic development co-hosted last fall by the regional planning council. However, though ECFRPC covers six counties, only two of the six are part of the five-county St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop. We know that the Loop will most likely generate significant economic results once it appears on the new trails website that Visit Florida will launch in October. Up to the plate steps OGT, inviting the other three counties of the Loop to join in the program. Will they? Won’t they? I have fallback plans on how to accomplish the objective. But for now, I see myself walking through the door that OGT has opened. If the door shuts, well; Plan B.
And planting seeds along the way? Nothing more pertinent about this than talk by the Florida Wildflower Foundation that we of the Greenway Alliance first encouraged. We suggested the value to FWF of starting a series of wildflower trails in Florida that in time could become as popular with Florida trekkers as fall colors to the entire travel industry pretty much from Georgia’s high northwestern hills up through Appalachian country to New England. First of the trails that FWF is considering? That would be our own mixed spine route/alternate route that’s again the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop.
If I might add to that garish opening metaphorical mix, join the chorus. Play your part. Bang the drum. Don’t quit even when non-believers threaten to hook you off the stage.