Santos trail system in Ocala, FL

The American Trails organization held the 19th annual Trail Symposium in Little Rock, AR earlier this month and picked Florida as the Best Trails State Award winner for 2008. The award is given annually:

For a state which is facilitating an outstanding statewide system of trails. The nomination should address any aspects that have led to the establishment of the statewide trails network including master planning, legislation, funding, and program implementation. The nomination should also include specific projects, plans, policies and/or initiatives that have furthered establishment and expansion of the trails network during the past two years.

The state of Florida has been working since 1999 on a comprehensive plan for greenways and trails and has accomplished a great deal over the past several years. The Florida Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT) manages more than 80,000 acres of land containing over 400 miles of trails, including the 110-mile cross-Florida greenway. OGT works closely with the state DOT and Department of Health to faciliate trail planning and management leading to a cooperative effort matched by few states.

The OGT has also recognized the vital link between trails and tourism and works closely with the state tourism marketing board. The state even helped develop guides to hiking, paddling, and biking in the state to give existing trails exposure to new users.

As a Best State Trail award winner, the state of Florida should serve as a model for other states looking to improve health, transportation, and tourism through a single comprehensive trail program. Next time you head down to the beach or Disney, don’t forget your hiking boots – there are plenty of trails to explore in the Sunshine State!

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