A Guide to the National Parks of Florida

Bill Reynolds has been with the national parks service for a decade, and has visited a ton of them—particularly in Florida. It’s fair to say the spokesman is a super-fan. Of the famed Everglades, he crows, “If the National Parks are America’s crown jewels, the Everglades are some of the shiniest!” But it’s not the only gem in the Sunshine State. Florida’s...

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20 tons of trash cleaned from Apalachicola National Forest in just one weekend

Volunteers removed more than 20 tons of garbage from the Apalachicola National Forest recently. But forest officials say the problem of illegal dumping, of sometimes hazardous materials, continues to grow. Along Highway 319 in Leon and Wakulla counties, near Tallahassee, Florida, volunteers, National Forest staff and others fanned out into the sometimes thick underbrush....

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Explore SW Florida history at Buckingham Trails Preserve

Lee County, Florida Parks & Recreation invites visitors and residents to explore the new hiking and equestrian trails at Conservation 20/20’s Buckingham Trails Preserve located in east Fort Myers. The preserve provides a newly built parking area and trail system totaling more than 7 miles. There are 2.3 miles of hiking trails and 4.8 miles for both horseback riding...

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Work to Start On Hiking Path Near Fort Meade, FL

Later this month, crews will begin carving a 2.6-mile tree-shaded hiking path out of the wilderness along the Peace River near Fort Meade. And when the Peace River Trail is finished about four months from now, city leaders in Fort Meade are hoping it will become a magnet for visitors to their community. “I think people are going to come here and walk the trail, and...

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Divers Remove 90,000 Tires from Ocean Floor in Florida

Divers in helmets have begun walking the ocean floor off Fort Lauderdale to clear an environmental catastrophe that’s rested among the coral reefs for more than 40 years. An estimated 700,000 tires were dropped into the ocean off Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in the early 1970s in a failed attempt to create an artificial reef. At the time, before anyone had figured out...

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Florida Isn’t The Only State Where Officials Censored The Term ‘Climate Change’

It may have seemed surprising when four former employees of Florida’s state Department of Environmental Protection said they were forbidden to use the words “climate change” and “global warming” in any official communications. But as it turns out, the alleged practice is not unusual — at least in states with governors who do not accept the scientific validity of...

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Instagram litter idea is picking up in Florida

Florida transportation officials want your “selfies” as you pick up litter. The Florida Department of Transportation launched its new “Man vs. Litter Challenge.” Participants take pictures of themselves disposing of litter and upload them on Instagram. The entry that gets the most “likes” and is judged the most creative wins a gift...

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Decades of conservation efforts pay off for the endangered green sea turtle

Few people visit East Key, a tiny, sandy island in Dry Tortugas National Park, situated at the farthest end of the Florida Keys. Roughly 1,300 feet long and 300 feet wide, the island is off-limits to the general public. But last summer Kristen Hart spent a night there doing some “very strange babysitting,” as she describes it. A research ecologist with the U.S....

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America’s Largest Ecosystem Restoration Project Is on the Verge of Moving Ahead on Earth Day

Forget the organic soy green latte or earth-toned yoga mat with a smiling bamboo tree on it, or other random schlock for Earth Day. The fate of one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects in the world hangs in the balance at a meeting in Washington D.C. on Earth Day. Unfortunately, the average person has no idea why this is significant. And why would they? It will...

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Florida looks to a private company to sell advertisements on state trails

To add insult to injury: after the State of Florida decided it was okay to sell advertising on state trails, they discovered no one wanted to buy it. So they’re talking to a New York firm about running the program – and the NY firm will keep 70% of all profit generated. The state is negotiating with a private company to take over a park sponsorship program...

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Big O Hike, a Lake Okeechobee holiday tradition

Every Thanksgiving week since 1991, a group of hardy souls — from elementary-school age to octogenarians — have embarked on a one-of-a-kind, nine-day hiking adventure circling Lake Okeechobee. And this past holiday was no different. More than 100 people signed up for all or part of the 2013 Big O Hike, which began Nov. 23 and concluded Dec. 1, and was hosted by the...

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Floridians don’t need hills to know thrills of hiking

Would you like a cool way to raise your metabolism? Take up hiking. Summer in Florida is too hot and humid for long walks in the woods. But we’re now coming into the best season of the year to explore the state’s many nature trails. We know that regular exercise increases the body’s calorie-burning capacity. We also know that adding muscle increases...

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Hiking reveals subtle charm of Bull Creek Wildlife Management Area

There was nothing subtle about the change a dozen hikers stepped into from shady pinewoods to open palmetto prairie in the Bull Creek Wildlife Management Area about 15 miles west of West Melbourne. On a recent trek guided by Tony Flohre of the Indian River chapter of the Florida Trail Association, the group was able to enjoy the beauty of the area’s two dominant...

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For more than two decades, Lantana retiree has been working to clear Florida’s hiking trails

When you’re a trailblazer, it’s an early-to-bed, early-to-rise life. Just ask Bea Rogers, trail coordinator for the Loxahatchee Chapter of the Florida Trail Association. The rugged outdoorswoman laces up her hiking shoes before dawn each morning for a 2-mile trek around her Lantana neighborhood — that is if she’s not clearing trails somewhere else. That somewhere else,...

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US, South Florida planners propose biking, hiking trails to traverse the Everglades

One day, if all goes according to an ambitious plan now in the works, people will be able to cycle or walk all the way from Miami to Everglades City and Naples on wide, paved trails that link together national parks, nature preserves, campgrounds and tourist attractions. It may take a generation to finish, but the National Park Service and planners in Miami-Dade...

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Booklet outlines ocean to lake hiking trail in Florida

Veteran hiker Dean Drake of the Florida Trail Association recently completed a booklet describing the Ocean to Lake Trail — a hiking trail that stretches 65 miles from Hobe Sound Beach to the dike on Lake Okeechobee. The 39-page booklet titled “Walking the Ocean to Lake Hiking Trail” includes a map, photographs, historical tidbits, descriptions of the land, background on...

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Apalachicola National Forest

The Apalachicola National Forest is the largest National Forest in Florida, sweeping around the southern edge of Tallahassee. Botanical beauty and wilderness draw hikers and other enthusiasts to the vast trail systems, including a lengthy segment of the Florida Trail between Sopchoppy and Bristol. Home to the fabled Bradwell Bay, the Apalachicola is also the place to see...

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Hiking the ‘Big O’

At the age of 62, John Kucin knew his limitations as a hiker. So he sidestepped the temptation to walk the rugged Appalachian Trail and opted for a challenge more suited to his abilities: The “Big O Hike,” a 109-mile trek around Lake Okeechobee. Kucin, who walks about three miles a day for health benefits, had been reading books about the Appalachian Trail. When he...

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Only two States “opt out” of Recreational Trails Program Funding

Only Florida and Kansas have opted out of Recreational Trails Program funding. MAP-21, the new transportation funding bill, allows state governors to opt out of the Recreational Trails Program if they notify the U.S. Secretary of Transportation of their decision no later than 30 days before the funds are apportioned (which was September 1, 2012). Both are a surprise to...

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‘Strongly attached’ hikers love nature; want a challenge, Florida study finds

As U.S. Forest Service officials consider how best to improve — and someday, complete — the Florida National Scenic Trail, a University of Florida professor has been gauging trail hikers’ emotional attachments to the places they traverse. The trail, one of only 11 National Scenic Trails in the U.S., stretches for 1,400 miles throughout Florida, from Pensacola to the Big...

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Florida Scenic trail is a state treasure

Since this is an ideal time of year for hiking, it’s time to appreciate the premier hiking trail the Sunshine State — the Florida National Scenic Trail. The trail runs 1,400 miles from the Big Cypress National Preserve to the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola. Near Tallahassee, the trail enters from the east along the wild Aucilla River. The Aucilla...

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St. Lucie County Environmental Resources Department announces weekly Nature Series

St. Lucie County’s Environmental Resources Department is continuing its weekly winter Nature Series with guided, educational hikes in March. These free weekly programs run through May and give participants a chance to explore some of the 42 miles of hiking trails that are located throughout the County’s 7,000 acres of Environmentally Significant Lands. Anyone...

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Hiking author offers tips for trekking Florida trails

Author Sandra Friend is working on her 12th book about hiking in Florida. For the past several years, Friend has been actively exploring new trails to build content for her website – Florida Hikes – on which she features a new hike each week for subscribers. Friend, who lives in Sanford, said she’s logged more than 3,000 miles on Florida trails since...

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Explore trails on weekly Nature Series hikes

The St. Lucie County, Florida Environmental Resources Department’s weekly winter Nature Series with guided, educational hikes returns this December. These free weekly programs run through May and give participants a chance to explore some of the 42 miles of hiking trails located throughout the county’s 7,000 acres of environmentally significant lands. Anyone...

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Intrepid hiker tackles Florida Trail, all 1,150 miles of it

When Amanda Hus was a little girl growing up in Fort Myers, she dreamed about hiking the Appalachian Trail. “I used to read about it in magazines,” said the 53-year-old former stay-at-home mom. “I said to myself, Some day.” The Tampa resident had done a few day hikes in parks and nature reserves, but nothing serious. Then last fall she heard a...

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