Al Harnage

RAILS TO TRAILS

We are getting into full summer weather on the Trail now — hot weather, rain and lightning with some thunder. All of those can be very dangerous, so be sure you are prepared. Bring enough water for everyone, take breaks, ride in the early and late parts of the day and do not over do yourself. Also be careful and try to get under cover when there is inclement weather. If you are not familiar with this weather, please note: If you can hear thunder, you are in range to be struck by lightning. We want everyone to have a good time on the trail.

Volunteer appreciation

Recently, a Volunteer Appreciation Celebration was held for all the volunteers of the Rails to Trails. It was hosted by Harry Mitchell, Withlacoochee State Trail manager; Dianne Drye, trail specialist; Julie Anne Tabone, District 2 program specialist; and two park employees. It was held at the Inverness trailhead. A short presentation was given by Harry and Dianne, expressing their thanks to all the trail and park volunteers who devote hours to making both the trail and park special places.

Dennis Reiland presented a mock check in the amount of $178,167 representing 7,746 reported volunteer hours for the Withlacoochee State Trail. All hours by volunteers should be reported as they count toward many things, including grants.  Julie Anne Tabone expressed how much District 2 appreciates the volunteers and how the parks depend on volunteers to fill needs that the park employees do not have time or the expertise to fill. 

The Rails to Trails was presented with two certificates — one “Special Event of the Year” for the annual bike ride. Dennis Reiland accepted on behalf of Rails to Trails. The other certificate was for “Volunteer Team of the Year 2015” Award and Don Eastman and Don Zutaut accepted that award. Everyone had a great time at the celebration.

New trash receptacles

Trail Specialist Dianne Drye reported that existing trash cans along the trail will soon be replaced with new, more attractive, ones. The new trash cans are ADA-compliant and feature four open sides, with a top to keep rain out. If these prove successful, the state will purchase more and place them about every 3 miles along the trail, including at covered picnic tables. Expect to see new receptacles at Gulf Junction, Citrus Springs, Ridge Manor, Inverness and Owensboro Junction. Floral City already has a new receptacle.

Annual bike ride

There is still time for you to be a part of our 22nd annual Bike Ride as a volunteer (contact Karen Counts at 586-904-3262) or as a sponsor (contact Linda Reiland at 352-639-6191). If you would like to be a sponsor, Linda will be glad to explain the different sponsorships that are available. We expect to have approximately 1,000 riders from all over come in and spend a few days here. Some use this as their vacation and some as a getaway for a couple of days. We see a lot of the same families that travel here each year. This is why it takes most of the year to be sure the Trail is in its best shape for this event. The bikers spend a lot of money with our local stores, restaurants, motels, etc.

Wednesday and Friday work crews

Between these two groups, they have been working on replacement of benches and covered benches all up and down the trail. These are being replaced because the wood had rotted below the ground, causing them to become unstable and dangerous. All of the covered benches will be full accessible, with concrete pads around them and have paved access to the Trail. The first bench is next to the U.S. 41 (Florida Avenue) overpass and others will be spaced along the trail. As time permits and when equipment is in running order, there is some trimming and chipping being done. The volunteers pace themselves in this weather also. All of this work is being done under the guidance of Dianne Drye.

Enjoy the Trail and respect your fellow users! I can be reached at 352-527-3263; all comments are welcome.

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