The Florida Department of Environmental Protection invites nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts and people of all ages to experience the beauty and wonder of natural Florida by planning a hiking trip along a Recreational Trails Program-funded trail. As Florida Hiking Trails Month comes to an end, now is the perfect time to get outdoors, enjoy the weather and explore Florida’s bountiful trails.
The Recreational Trails Program provides competitive-grant funds to local communities to renovate, develop or maintain recreational motorized, nonmotorized and mixed-use trails and trailside facilities. A few of the recently completed Recreation Trails Program projects available for your next adventure include:
- The tree-lined Bonita Trail meanders through cypress and palm riverine hammocks along the Imperial River. The city of Bonita Springs envisions extending this ½ mile Recreational Trails Program funded project. After your walk, launch a kayak on the Imperial River. The river runs east to west and the distance is up to the individual as the paddle trail is not a loop. The park is located at 27601 Kent Road.
- The city of Sanibel’s Pond Apple Trail elevated boardwalk at Schlosser Preserve closes the trail gap between Shipley Park and the Bailey Homestead Preserve. The Recreational Trails Program funded portion is a short segment of the 1.6 mile loop that takes visitors through various habitats including tropical hardwood forest, pine flatwoods, wetland forest and open water habitats. Access to the trail is located at 1159 Causeway Road.
- The Sabal Pines Greenway multi-use trail is located at the city of Coconut Creek’s largest park. The park may be best known for the nine athletic fields but it is surrounded by cypress wetlands, picnic amenities and tennis courts. The Recreational Trails Program funded project added a trailhead and 1,800 linear feet of 12-foot-wide concrete multi-use trail. Adjacent to residential areas, Sabal Pines Park is located at 5005 NW 39 Avenue.
- View the freshwater lake while experiencing the city of Clearwater’s shared use hiking and equestrian trails at Lake Chautauqua Equestrian and Nature Preserve. The Preserve, acquired in 2009 through the Florida Communities Trust, is located at 2312 Landmark Drive. The city utilized Penny for Pinellas sales taxes to match funds for the Recreational Trails Program funded 2.3-mile 8-foot-wide pulverized shell trail and parking facility.
- For a long distance experience, hike along the Florida National Scenic Trail. The Recreational Trails Program funded an eighteen-mile section of the trail in the Ocala National Forest. In the 1960s work began on the Florida Trail in the Ocala National Forest. In 1983, the U.S. Congress designated the Florida Trail as the country’s 8th National Scenic Trail (Florida National Scenic Trail). The US Forest Service (USFS), as the federal administrator for the trail, was tasked with cooperatively managing the Florida National Scenic Trail and ensuring its long term protection. The Florida National Scenic Trail is in various stages of development, traverses land managed or owned by as many as 27 different organizations, covering 37 counties and 76 different land management units.
The federally funded Recreational Trails Program of the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration provides competitive-matching grant funds to local communities to renovate, develop or maintain recreational motorized, nonmotorized and mixed-use trails and trailside facilities. Contract agreements are for two years, with two one-year extensions permitted pursuant to the recreational trails program administrative rule. In Florida, the grant program is administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Land and Recreation Grants section within the Office of Operations.