Al Harnage

Rails to Trails


Editor’s note: This article is being written prior to the Oct. 2, 2016 Bike Ride and subsequently you will be reading this after that date. Therefore, all information about the Bike Ride will be in next month’s article.


Harry Mitchell Retirement Party: During September, a retirement party was held at Fort Cooper Recreation Hall for Harry and friends and volunteers honored him for his 37-plus years of service with the Park Service. It was supposed to be a surprise, however, when one person RSVP’d, they forgot to delete his name from the list they were using and the cat was out of the bag. That was the laugh of the day! It was a pizza party along with a cake reflecting his retirement. He gave a short talk about his career with the Park Service and thanked his friends and volunteers for all the years they have worked with him and that he will remember them. Harry is now finished working, but he has a lot of vacation time accrued, so he will be on vacation until Nov. 30, 2016, and then he will be officially retired. Good Luck, Harry!

New Park & Trail Manager: Chris Raby has been appointed as the new park manager at Fort Cooper State Park and the Withlacoochee State Trail. Chris began his career with the Florida Park Service in 1998 as OPS (other personal service) at Fort Cooper State Park. From the beginning, being a park manager was the goal that he was working toward. Along his journey with the Florida Park Service, Chris has held a number of positions. He was a park ranger at Collier Seminole State Park and also at Anastasia State Park before becoming a park services Specialist at Fauer Dykes State Park, and then was promoted to assistant park manager. In order to gain more experience, Chris went on to serve as an assistant park manager at Gold Head Branch State Park/Palatka to Lake Butler State Trail and then more recently, as an assistant park manager at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. With his vast experience and knowledge and “being back home,” he should do a great job. His official start date is Nov. 1, 2016. Welcome, Chris!

Wednesday Work Crew: This crew has been kept busy trimming and chipping trying to get the Trail in shape for the Bike Ride. When the chipper is not working for whatever reason, the crew continues to trim and stack the debris along the trail and then goes back and chips when the chipper is repaired. 

As I stated before, this is a never-ending job! Also on their list was replacing the ice machine, as the old one “died.” They need to have it hooked up for the Bike Ride as well as having ice for the volunteers, etc. There are many items to get out of storage for the Bike Ride and get them to the Trailhead as well as set up. This includes tents, chairs, tables, etc. This is a really busy month for all of the volunteers just before the Bike Ride — getting ready for the big day.

Ride or walk and enjoy the Withlacoochee State Trail as much as you can. It is good for your health and the weather should be getting cooler soon, thus making it very pleasant to be outside.

Your comments are always welcome. I can be reached at 352-527-3263.

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