The Florida Department of Environmental Protection welcomes Everglades City as a newly designated Florida Trail Town. The designation became official at a recent meeting of the Florida Greenways and Trails Council in Silver Springs.
Everglades City is a gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands and an important hub for several paddling trails, including the 1,515-mile Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. The town is also bike-friendly as evidenced by bicycle racks throughout town and at the airport.
“We are all very proud and excited about this designation since our town supports eco-tourism and welcomes visitors from around the world to enjoy our natural resources,” said Everglades City Mayor Howie Grimm. “Our small island town, situated in the middle of the greater Everglades area, has many amenities for both our residents and visitors, including a city park, a museum, restaurants, lodging, a hardware store, grocery store and historic buildings dating back to the 1920s. We are a bicycle/walkable community with kayak and canoe rentals and guided tours. Having the Florida Trail Town designation will only enhance our efforts to provide the best possible experience for our visitors.”
Katie Bernier, South Regional Trails Coordinator for the Office of Greenways and Trails, assisted in the assessment of Everglades City for the designation. “What struck me about Everglades City was the level of community involvement,” she said. “This is an area that was heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma, but residents have since worked tirelessly in restoring their town, keeping recreational opportunities their primary focus.”
Florida State Parks Director Eric Draper added: “In Florida, participating in outdoor recreation is a way of life. Trail Towns not only provide trail users with necessary goods and services, but also promote healthy lifestyles. It’s very exciting to see the Division of Recreation and Parks’ Trail Town program gaining such momentum.”
A Florida Trail Town is a community in close proximity to a non-motorized recreational trail that welcomes hikers, bicyclists, skaters, joggers, equestrians and paddlers with restaurants, shops and lodging.
To recognize Florida’s Trail Towns, DEP’s Office of Greenways and Trails works with interested communities on self-assessments to gauge their strengths and weaknesses in relation to nearby trails and users. When ready, a community fills out an application and candidates are considered for approval by the legislatively established Florida Greenways and Trails Council. Designated Trail Towns are featured on the Office of Greenways and Trails website and given metal signs that can be placed at trailheads and town gateways. Trail Town stickers are provided for businesses to display and the Office of Greenways and Trails develops a web-based story map tour specific for the community.