Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Florida that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
The 32-mile Shingle Creek Trail in Seminole and Osceola counties and the 50-mile East Central Regional Rail-Trail from Lake Monroe on the St. Johns River to Titusville on the Indian River Lagoon are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the natural world.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These critical projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Rick Scott and the state of Florida, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Florida and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Florida highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Shingle Creek Trail
Shingle Creek Trail is a multi-use recreational trail that, when fully acquired, will stretch 32 miles through one of Florida's most urban regions, from the Wekiva River in Seminole County to Lake Tohopekaliga in Osceola County. This trail will also connect to a larger regional greenway system to the west into Lake County.
A project of regional significance, Shingle Creek Trail is a key section of Central Florida's ecological and recreational greenway network. It will link the East Coast Greenway — a 3,000-mile network of multi-use trails along the Atlantic Coast from Canada to Key West, Fla. — to Lake County's greenway and blueway system. (The blueway system itself features more than 140 miles of water trails.)
The base of the trail, the Wekiva River, is a Partnership Wild and Scenic River administered by the National Park Service's Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program. Completing the Shingle Creek Trail will increase access to the river and provide recreational opportunities in urban Central Florida.
East Central Regional Rail-Trail
The 50-mile East Central Regional Rail-Trail is the most extensive abandoned rail corridor purchased through Florida's Greenways and Trails acquisition program. The multi-use trail will link Lake Monroe on the St. Johns River to the city of Titusville on the Indian River Lagoon, mirroring a historic path of commerce and travel. The St. Johns River is an American Heritage River, and the Indian River Lagoon is considered North America's most biologically diverse estuary.
The East Central Regional Rail-Trail is envisioned as part of a larger 260-mile-long trail loop known as the St. Johns River to the Sea Trail Loop. Trail partners hope to complete the loop by 2013, to tie their celebration with the 500th Anniversary commemoration of the landing of Hernando de Soto in Florida. When complete, the trail will link the metro Orlando area, Kennedy Space Center, Canaveral National Seashore, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Daytona's beaches. It will provide recreational opportunities and better access to public lands in one of Florida's most populated and most visited regions.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Florida, for example, potential actions the department could provide include technical and financial assistance in designing and building the East Central Regional Rail-Trail and engaging the Canaveral National Seashore, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and State of Florida on planning and developing the project. While Interior cannot commit to federal financial support for the projects identified in the report due to budgetary constraints, Secretary Salazar is committed to doing everything possible to advance each project in the coming year through whatever means available.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.