East meets West

by Herb Hiller

In 2011, a long established program for travel writers and photographers will relocate from Orlando to the California Bay Area. When the program began 17 years ago, its purpose was to overcome complaints that were appearing in The Wall Street Journal, The Miami Herald and elsewhere about guidebooks that were out of date, incomplete and inaccurate. I was then, as now, a policy planner.

As a writer also, I especially wanted to solve a problem that these complaints (altogether justified) were already causing for legitimate guidebook writers. I was one of those, and so I brought the project to the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).

Relocating the Institute for Travel Writing & Photography to the Bay Area means that SATW will benefit from the program as never before. The Bay Area is the hub of creative travel journalism and new media that facilitate travel. I leave the program now because I’d rather work at problems not yet solved than programs in place and doing well. I can now more fully work with East Coast Greenway Alliance Executive Director Dennis Markatos-Soriano and our staff colleagues in quickening our organization’s post-Recession turnaround.

A big opportunity comes up next October when Visit Florida launches its trails website specifically aimed at vacationers. Florida’s Office of Greenways and Trails is already intensely engaged in adapting its existing trails site for the new. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the Florida Trail Association, Florida Paddlesports Association, Bike Florida and the Florida Bicycle Association are some of the others involved in this initiative that I chair for the Greenway Alliance..

We’ve already heard that the trails website will be a gift to citrus growers, to the makers of Gatorade, and to companies that bottle Florida spring water. That’s surely true. Equally true is how when word spreads widely about Florida’s unique and plentiful trails of all kinds – from the Florida National Scenic Trail to the Florida Circumferential Saltwater Paddling Trail to the largest single state section of the East Coast Greenway – that the Sunshine State will become far better known than before for its remaining and still impressive natural resources and cultural heritage.

I think about the best way to tie the Greenway to that October trails website launch. While I think this through, I also welcome you all to join in. Our interactions together leading to the formation of our Florida Committee at the May ProBike/ProWalk Conference in Lakeland will be the most important step yet in our work to complete the Greenway through its 600-plus-mile Florida route.

I’d like to believe that at least some of those writers and photographers that I’ve played a part in nurturing will want to come ride Florida trails and help tell the rest of the world about what we’re accomplishing.

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