We’ve been waiting for this shoe to drop. In a Notice to Hikers dated 7/24/15, the Florida Trail Association announced that the section of the trail in the Big Bend blazed between the Suwannee River and the Aucilla River, 55 miles of trail known as San Pedro Bay and Econfina, or the Foley section, is now permanently closed to hiking.
Back in the springtime, the Foley Timber & Land Company announced their plans to sell 560,000 acres of land in Florida’s Big Bend. It was such an enormous amount of land to plop on the market that even the New York Times took note. On our reconnaissance trips in the Big Bend this spring, we noted brand new hunting lease signs popping up at the trail access points.
Until they find a buyer that will take on this enormous mosaic of planted pines and swamp forest – and that buyer will more than likely be a developer, since who else can afford half a million acres? – the land is divvied up into hunting leases where hunting clubs can do as they please regardless of hunting seasons. So hiking through this section was already a dicey proposition.
Unfortunately, there are no alternative trail corridors, according to the Florida Trail Association. That’s because there is a lack of public land in this area. That’ll happen when one company owns most of the region. It would be nice to think a benefactor could purchase a 55-mile corridor for the trail from that half million acres, but with the current political climate, it’s mighty unlikely.
The Florida Trail Association has posted a suggested roadwalk on their website. It’s mostly on not-so-busy roads. SEE THE DETAILS.
Before hiking season commences, we’ll take a look at the route and offer suggestions for water sources, camping, and resupply. Meanwhile, please factor this big change into your plans for thru or section-hiking the Florida Trail, as a new protected trail route won’t be in place in the foreseeable future.