~DEP celebrates Greenways and Trails Month at ribbon cutting event~
TALLAHASSEE – As part of Florida’s celebration of Greenways and Trails Month, Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Deputy Secretary for Land and Recreation Bob Ballard today participated in a ribbon cutting event for the reopening of the southern three miles of the Tallahassee-St. Marks State Trail. The reopened segment stretches from St. Marks north to US 98 and is the first segment of the newly paved and widened rail-trail to open for public use.
DEP Deputy Secretary Bob Ballard was joined by Mayor of the City of St. Marks Phil Cantner, representatives from VISIT FLORIDA and the Florida Greenways and Trails Council at today’s event to recognize the recent launch of a new trails-tourism website. The website, which officially launched October 4, highlights the benefits trails provide Florida’s environment and tourism industry through healthy recreational opportunities and an affordable alternative to traditional vacation activities.
“Today’s event signifies two important milestones for Florida residents, visitors and trail communities,” said DEP Deputy Secretary Bob Ballard. “The newly repaved segment of the Tallahassee-St. Marks Trail coupled with VISIT FLORIDA’s comprehensive trail website increases public awareness and accessibility to all the beautiful outdoor experiences Florida has to offer.”
Touting Florida’s award-winning trails as a major tourism attraction alongside beaches, golf courses and theme parks, the new website features more than 100 trails and serves as a one-stop-shop for residents and guests looking to plan an eco-vacation or simply take a day-trip down a paved or paddling trail. The website provides a gateway to nearby businesses, outfitters, restaurants and overnight accommodations to make any trail trip complete, and allows businesses to list their company on the website for free through June 2011.
“The launch of this new website emphasizes the extraordinary value trails add to our state and will give travelers a taste of just how much is out there waiting for them to experience,” said VISIT FLORIDA Chief Marketing Officer Will Seccombe. “Connecting Florida’s tourism industry to visitors through their passions is the cornerstone of VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing efforts and this trails website offers a content-rich resource for those who love hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding and birdwatching.”
Nature-based tourism is a growing trend and a record-setting year of visitation shows that Florida’s trails greenways and trails are at the forefront of a movement that helps bolster the state’s economy. The 65 percent of visitors that include nature-based activities in their travel help these economic engines continue to expand.
The St. Marks Trail was the first rail-trial in the state trail system to be paved and has provided Floridians more than 20 years of service. The resurfacing project, which began in June of 2010, is being constructed in two phases and will improve public safety and usability for future generations.
About DEP’s Office of Greenways and Trails
In 2008, Florida was named by American Trails as “Best Trails State in America,” recognizing DEP’s Office of Greenways & Trails for its vision and leadership, which includes community assistance, land acquisition, public outreach and the management of eight state trails and the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. The Greenway is Florida’s longest green corridor stretching 110 miles from the St. Johns River near Palatka to the Gulf of Mexico near Inglis. Of the eight state trails, six are rail-trails, which are railroad corridors converted to recreational trails for hiking, biking, skating, equestrian activities and alternative transportation. For more information about Florida’s trails, visit FloridaGreenwaysAndTrails.com.
About VISIT FLORIDA
As the state’s number one industry, tourism is responsible for welcoming more than 80 million visitors each year who spend more than $60 billion, generating 22 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue and employing nearly 1 million Floridians. For every $1 spent on tourism marketing, VISIT FLORIDA – the state’s official tourism marketing corporation – generates more than $147 in tourism spending and $9 in new sales tax collections, paid by visitors, not residents. VISIT FLORIDA promotes tourism to Florida through sales, advertising, promotions, public relations, new product development and visitor services programs. As a public/private partnership, VISIT FLORIDA serves more than 4,000 tourism industry businesses, including major strategic alliance partnerships with AirTran Airways, American Express Travel Related Services, Disney Destinations, Dollar Rent A Car, The Hertz Corporation, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and Universal Orlando. To learn more about VISIT FLORIDA, go to www.VISITFLORIDA.org.