Great news for Florida residents and visitors! In a tightly contested competition, the Florida Greenways and Trails Council (FGTC) has chosen to award over $40 million over five years toward completing a five-county, 260-mile northeast section of the East Coast Greenway. This section is the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop, which goes through five counties containing the ECG spine route on the coast and the complementary route further inland. (The FGTC also just awarded an equal sum to the Coast-to-Coast Connector, a 250-mile trail that overlaps with the Loop through two coastal counties.)
Support for these projects comes from the $25 million per year of SUN Trail funding authorized by the Florida Legislature in 2014. This funding will allow new Loop development to begin this year. The Loop, also known as SJR2C, includes St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, and New Smyrna Beach, among other popular destinations. The award was made by the Florida DEP Greenways and Trails Council for implementation by the Florida Department of Transportation. The Loop is currently over 25% completed, with another 15% in development.
The Loop's grant was chosen from among 15 regional applicants representing trails across the state. A second ECG segment including six southeast Florida counties was a finalist for funding. Individual county trails in the communities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach are eligible to share another nearly $42 million over five years among a number of additional trails. Herb Hiller and the ECGA initiated concept of the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop in 2008 with the Florida Wildflower Foundation, the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation (FGTF), and the Trust for Public Land. Our organization has since been actively involved in its development, along with other partners. We have advanced awareness of the Loop by recruiting tour operators to the Loop, organizing invitational tours which tied the SUN Rail commuter system in Orlando with the trail in DeBary, and advocating in public forums.
Major partners have included the Florida Wildflower Foundation, the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation , Bike Florida, Florida Bicycle Association, Florida Hospital Fish Memorial, Velo Fest Community Initiative, North Florida Bicycle Club, and the Florida ECG State Committee chaired by Paul Haydt. Leaders on the successful grant include former Volusia County Council member Pat Northey, Volusia Parks & Recreation Director Tim Bailey, and Kraig McLane of Putnam County Blueways and Trails. FGTF Executive Director and ECGA Trustee W. Dale Allen was a primary force in establishing the SUN Trail process.
Thank you to everyone who took action and contacted the FGTC in response to our March call for action. ECGA Southeast Regional Program Consultant Herb Hiller presented the idea of the Loop to the Greenway Alliance and has worked tirelessly over the past eight years. In response to the victory he said, "Success in the SUN Trail process greatly advances the ECG across our entire 13 Florida counties. The five-county Loop has become 'the little engine that could.'"
ECGA Southeast Consultant Herb Hiller contributed to this piece.
Your support helps to develop this ambitious, 3,000-mile route, Canada to Key West. Your membership gift builds more protected miles that we can all enjoy, today and for generations to come.