Dear Fellow Members and Friends,
We begin 2018 with several new Board members, Tom Rock, Recording Secretary, Scott Russell, Membership Director, Danny Hayes, Webmaster. Brian Reyes, Vice President, and Paul Sluder, Newsletter Editor. Planning for the Tour de Forts ClassicSM is moving into high gear under Jade Stanley’s direction. We will be reaching out to you for volunteers soon. There are many ways you can help and still do the ride.
Are we road cyclists by choice? Or is it that we have no other choice in our region of Florida? A neighbor of mine in a subdivision along A1A south of Mickler no longer feels comfortable riding in the bike lanes on A1A because of the density and speed of traffic. He is a sixty-year old triathlete with whom I have ridden on RAGBRAI. He lives most of the year in Des Moines, a city of 215,000, which has 600 miles of trails in its environs with over 60 miles in the city limits alone. Can we add up 600 miles of trails in our 4-county regions with a population of 1.4 million?
We all know that Florida ranks last in bicycle safety but there are real efforts elsewhere in the state to improve infrastructure through trail development. In the Miami-Dade area, with a population 2.7 million, plans are moving ahead for a 225-mile loop through the advocacy of more than 20 organizations in the Miami-Dade Trail Alliance. The City of Miami and the Coral Gables City Commission have committed $65 million from developer impact fees for trails. You can read more about it in the latest edition of the Rails to Trails magazine (http://magazine.railstotrails.org/resources/magflipbooks/2018_winter/#10).
Closer to our region the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop is a 260-mile Multi-Use Trail from St. Augustine to Titusville. The SJR2C Loop Alliance has been at this project for nearly a decade and the Loop is now under construction, utilizing existing trails and filling in the gaps. I went to a SJR2C Loop Summit a last October and listened to progress reports from each of the counties traversed by the loop. As a St. Johns County resident, I was embarrassed by how little progress has been made on our portion of the Loop.
The most extensive trail network in our region is on Amelia Island, thanks to years of work by Friends of the Amelia Island Trail. Club member, Mike Pikula, has been an integral part of those efforts. In mid-January the Friends of Amelia Island Trail made a presentation to the Fernandina Beach City Commission, requesting approval of a formal Resolution of Support for a comprehensive plan for future trails and paths for the City of Fernandina Beach and Nassau County.
In Jacksonville, I don’t think we could come up with 60 miles of trails and what we have is disconnected. The Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail does not extend to downtown. A non-profit, Groundwork Jacksonville, is working on connecting the S-Line Trail to the Emerald Necklace (http://groundworkjacksonville.org/projects/the-s-line-urban-trail/) and hopefully to the St. Johns River. I am aware of some recent activity in the Parks and Recreation Department which is also looking at trail development in Jacksonville, including funding mechanisms. But both Jacksonville and St. Johns County are years behind Amelia Island.
In Clay County the Bike, Blueways, and Trails Committee is making efforts to foster two connector trails, one north-south to the Jacksonville-Baldwin Trail and another from the Gold Head Trail along SR21 to SR16 and across the Saint Johns River via a replacement for the Shands Bridge. There are already plans for a separated bike trail on the new bridge. Club member, Jeanne Hargrave, has been involved in the Clay County efforts.
If we are to see cycling to become safer and grow in our region, we need to accelerate the planning and construction of paved multi-use trails. We need more grass roots support to convince local and county governments to support and fund trail development. I would urge you to get involved and work with organizations in your community.
I welcome your input. Please email me at email@example.com with your thoughts.
Hope to see you on the trail!