It’s been 14 years since I attended a grand opening on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. In 2000, I had the honor of being a ribbon cutter to officially open the Land Bridge over Interstate 75, connecting the two halves of the new trail systems I’d helped work on with Kenneth Smith to make a 30-mile route of the Florida Trail along the Greenway a reality.
Yesterday I didn’t cut a ribbon, but watched from the front row. The grand opening of the Dunnellon Trail was a rallying point for citizens in and around Dunnellon and Citrus Springs who’ve long awaited a connector between the Withlacoochee State Trail and the Cross Florida Greenway.
The new 2.5 mile paved path – and its grand bridge over the Withlacoochee, the center of attention for the day’s event – has already attracted over a thousand people over the past few weeks. At the event, we spotted representatives from eight Florida Trail Association chapters from as far away as Pensacola and Miami.
But one of the most important aspects of this short trail, and one that was never mentioned in all the public speaking that went on yesterday morning, is that it was originally conceived to provide connectivity for the Florida Trail across the Withlacoochee River. It was this particular route that Kenneth Smith, who helped scout it, championed more than a decade ago when I was working with him as Trailmaster of the newly created Pruitt section.
Jac Steer from the Florida Crackers Chapter of FTA showed us a map of what’s coming next. Volunteers from the Suncoast and Florida Crackers chapters will be busy painting new blazes from either end to make those connections happen, eliminating a significant stretch of roadwalk for hikers on the Western Corridor.
With more than 100 in attendance for the event, and many political stalwarts showing their support of trails connectivity, we’re glad to see the growing understanding of how meaningful trails are to Florida communities. But we do hope to see Florida Trail signs sprouting at both of these new trailheads very soon.