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Florida Proclaims Bike Month Then Proposes Deep Greenway Cuts

FL Gov. Charlie Crist proclaims March as Florida Bike Month

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) published a press release March 9 where Gov. Charlie Crist named March 2009 as Florida Bicycle Month. Now, you might ask yourself, “Gee, what took FDEP so long to get around to posting this? The proclamation was signed Feb. 25. The month was a third over before you got around to getting the word out.”

As a long-time newspaper guy, I know that official proclamations aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on (or the electrons they take to paint your screen). They’re feel-good fluff designed to heat some niche constituency to a warm, fuzzy glow. But, it’s nice that the Gov (or someone who wrote it for him) was thinking of us.

Gov. Charlie says all the right things

South Lake Trail in Lake County

  • “The bicycle plays an important role in the lives of millions of Floridians by providing them with a means to travel… helps motivate eco-tourism… has contributed to economic redevelopment…
  • “Increased bicycle usage will promote health and wellness…
  • “Can help reduce motor vehicle emissions … reduce global warming… provide mobility for those without access to a motor vehicle and increase existing road and parking capacity when people choose bicycling for utilitarian trips…
  • “FDOT and many local governments have adopted goals and policies to develop a multinodal transportation system that supports transportation choices including bicycles.”

So, what’s the bad news if The Guv loves us?

Ken Byran, Florida State Director of the Rail-to-Trails issued this call to action this morning:

During a Senate General Government Appropriations Committee meeting on Thursday, March 19, 2009, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) announced devastating cuts to Florida’s nationally renowned Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT). While other FDEP programs are being cut 20 percent, this proposal would:

  • slash 33 percent from OGT’s budget;
  • cripple citizen input by killing the Greenways and Trails Council, and;
  • eliminate 84 percent of the OGT Tallahassee Office staff.

In addition to rolling back the pro-trail clock by at least 10 years, this measure will threaten nearly $50 million of hard-earned development money for Florida’s future trails by eliminating the positions that are responsible for administering these funds. This timing could not be worse; on-the-ground activity is ramping up to create green infrastructure and jobs associated with economic stimulus projects. The negative ramifications of this cut are far-reaching.

What can I do?

Go to the Rail-to-Trails Conservancy web site and personalize a message that will be sent to folks who may be able to re-order cut priorities.

Let’s face it, we’re in some tough times

I rode Lake County’s South Lake Trail two weekends ago (review to come). I stopped a county worker who was blowing debris off the trail to compliment him on the job he was doing. He apologized for the condition of the trail and said he was behind on his work because he had just come back after being laid off for seven months.

Winter Garden is undergoing a transformation

winter-gardenThe town of Winter Garden is undergoing a magical transformation and several shop owners said it was because of the increased tourism being brought in by the West Orange Trail.

A bike rental store can’t keep enough rental bikes in stock. “Every time [the theme parks] prices go up, that’s great for me. A whole family can spend all day on the trail for the price of admission for one person at [theme park].”

Rails-to-Trails made Clermont a destination for us

South Lake Trail in Clermont, FLWe went up to the Space Coast to watch the Space Shuttle take off, but we stayed overnight in Clermont to ride the South Lake Trail the next morning.

Clermont isn’t a traditional destination for folks who are in Cocoa Beach, 60-plus miles away.

Before we left town, two families had spent a night in a hotel; we had breakfast in Clermont, gassed up our cars in Lake County, had lunch in Winter Garden and our Significant Others went shopping while we were riding.

Those are dollars spent in a two-county area that were directly attributable to the Rail-t0-Trails program.

Now is NOT the time to retreat

  • “The bicycle plays an important role in the lives of millions of Floridians by providing them with a means to travel… helps motivate eco-tourism… has contributed to economic redevelopment…
  • “Increased bicycle usage will promote health and wellness…
  • “Can help reduce motor vehicle emissions … reduce global warming… provide mobility for those without access to a motor vehicle and increase existing road and parking capacity when people choose bicycling for utilitarian trips…
  • “FDOT and many local governments have adopted goals and policies to develop a multinodal transportation system that supports transportation choices including bicycles.”

Oh, I’m sorry. I guess Gov. Charlie already said that. I hope he expresses those sentiments to FDEP.

2 comments to Florida Proclaims Bike Month Then Proposes Deep Greenway Cuts

  • GPrimm

    I passed your blog note on to some fellow Floridians and went to the Trails website and sent a not to the Gov and his buddies. I’m not holding my breath for any real action though.

    I’m looking forward to your review of the Lake County trail. The state has some great trails and they ARE a good excuse to get out and inexpensively explore the state a bit.

  • Only a moron wouldn’t understand the positive impact of paved trails in Florida. I travel all over the state riding many trails, and spend money for food, gas, lodging, etc. If you build it, they will come. I have. Great blog. All the best.