Scenic Trail Addition Celebrated (FL)

Seminole County, 11/8/02: Congressman John Mica joined members and friends of the Trust for Public Land (TPL), the Florida Trail Association, the USDA Forest Service and Seminole County at a barbecue on Sunday afternoon, October 27 to celebrate the preservation of Mills Creek Woodlands as part of the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST).

“As a father, a husband, and someone who grew up in Florida, I look around at this absolute beauty and I want to preserve it,” Congressman Mica told the more than 100 people assembled at the site. “What you have done here in Seminole County is a model for the rest of the state and the country.”

The Florida Trail Association presented Congressman Mica with its Champion of the Florida Trail award to recognize his continuing support for the Florida National Scenic Trail.

“Through Congressman Mica’s leadership and support over the past four years, Congress has appropriated over $11 million to the Forest Service for the FNST including $9.3 million to purchase land to protect the route of the trail,” said Kent Wimmer, Forest Service liaison for the Florida National Scenic Trail. “In comparison, only $1.3 million was appropriated for the trail in the 11 preceding years, and none for land acquisition. We would not be here today and would have not made the progress we have in the past four years in building and protecting the trail without Congressman Mica’s support.”

Formerly jointly owned by Pineloch Management Corporation and the Murray family, the beautifully wooded 470-acre site is located 25 miles northeast of Orlando in Seminole County. Once a family farm with orange groves and grazing cattle, the site also features a small creek and undisturbed woodlands. TPL acquired the site in June and conveyed it to the U.S. Forest Service. Congressman Mica was instrumental in securing federal funding for the project, which is the largest single purchase by the USDA Forest Service for the Florida National Scenic Trail.

This event celebrated the partnership of the Trust for Public Land, Seminole County, the Florida Trail Association and the USDA Forest Service in securing this land for the trail. The Mills Creek Woodlands will protect a two-mile section of the trail that will link to the Big Little Econ State Forest to the northwest and Seminole County’s Chuluota Wilderness to the southeast.

“This project would not have happened without a lot of people who really care about this site,” said Doug Hattaway, the TPL project manager responsible for the acquisition.

“We have quite a resource here,” said Kathleen Atkinson, Deputy Forest Supervisor with the USDA Forest Service. “It’s really helpful to have wonderful partners like the Trust for Public Land who can move quickly and work with us to purchase the property and get it into public ownership.”

The Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) is a footpath that explores many of Florida’s most significant natural areas as it meanders from Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida’s western panhandle to Big Cypress National Preserve in South Florida.

The trail is one of only eight congressionally designated national scenic trails and will one day extend the length of the state, some 1,300 miles. Nearly half of the trail has been certified as FNST and open to the public. The trail includes temperate and subtropical sections, and is enjoyed by thousands of hikers, backpackers, photographers, birdwatchers and other nature enthusiasts from Florida and around the world. It is especially delightful in the cooler months. Loop and side trails allow users to explore nearby historic sites and other points of interest.

With over 5,000 members, the Florida Trail Association dedicates itself to building, maintaining and preserving the FNST. This past year, the Association’s members contributed 60,000 hours of volunteer labor building over 85 miles of trail, building and repairing bridges and boardwalks, mowing and cutting vegetation and painting blazes marking the trail.

The association’s primary partner for the FNST is the USDA Forest Service. That federal agency has entered into trail management agreements with over 20 public and private partners who help ensure that the FNST will continue to provide quality recreational opportunities.