Friday, April 27, 2018
News Roundup

Local sections of Florida Trail need to be protected

Among the 47 miles of trails in the Citrus Tract of the Withlacoochee State Forest is "the state's longest backpacking loop in a single contiguous forest … with aggressively rolling sandhills, steep descents into sinkholes, and rock-strewn footpaths."

That's according to the Florida Trail Association's website, which also says that there are 30 more miles of trail in the popular Croom Tract, east of Brooksville.

Then there's the Richloam Tract, east of U.S. 301, which is part of one of the largest wild areas in Central Florida. It is 58,000 acres of dense forest and swamp. It is immediately north of another 110,000 acres of preserved land in and around the Green Swamp.

An ambitious hiker could start in Richloam at State Road 50, traverse parts of Hernando, Pasco and Sumter and not emerge from the woods until reaching northern Polk County.

Most trails in all of these natural areas are marked by the trademark orange blazes of the Florida Trail.

The Florida Trail Association has been working for decades to string a trail the length of the state, from the Big Cypress National Preserve to the Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola. And given the fragmented nature of wild land in our state, you'd think the long stretches in our region would be valuable additions to that goal.

For a while, at least, the U.S. Forest Service had other ideas. The service, which supervises the Florida Trail as part of the National Scenic Trail system, talked seriously last year about eliminating the western corridor of the trail, which splits from the eastern path near State Road 60 and rejoins it in the Ocala National Forest.

Before getting into the reasons for this plan, I should point out that the service appears to have backed away from it, at least for now.

Denise Rains, a spokeswoman with the Forest Service, said it has no plans to decertify any sections of the trail "at this time."

But it's still pursuing the same general aim of consolidating the trail system.

"The Florida Trail corridor has become all these different trails that break off, and we're looking at what exactly needs to be included," she said.

Why? Well, maybe because the Florida Trail comes with constraints, said Kent Wimmer, the policy and programs director of the Florida Trail Association.

Because it is a National Scenic Trail, landowners must consider the impact to the trail before they approve, for example, clear-cutting of timber or additional hunting.

And though this designation doesn't cost the Forest Service much, the agency is obligated to provide mowers, chain saws and other maintenance equipment.

All of these are precisely the reasons we need to keep an eye on our local sections of the trail, just in case anybody tries to take down those orange blazes.

We want protections that require the state Forest Service, for example, to give the trail special consideration before it allows other uses in the state forest it controls.

And we want trail volunteers such as Mitch Almon to have the equipment they need to keep up and build trails.

I joined Almon on a group hike he led through Richloam Saturday. I was able to see this inspiring, vast wilderness.

I want to be able to keep seeing it. I want to keep it wilderness. That means I want to keep those orange blazes.

Comments
Carlton: Lessons from the NRA

Carlton: Lessons from the NRA

You would think these would be tough times for the National Rifle Association. You would think so even here in Florida, where the NRA practically dictates gun legislation, where it easily fends off gun limits and swiftly bullies lawmakers who dare s...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Would you draft ex-Florida Gators receiver Antonio Callaway?

Would you draft ex-Florida Gators receiver Antonio Callaway?

Former Florida Gators receiver Antonio Callaway should have heard his name called last night during the NFL draft's first round.He didn't.He might hear his name called tonight, during the second or third round.He probably won't.Which means one of the...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Softball: Plant City perfect in district finals with Ashley Bullion on mound

Softball: Plant City perfect in district finals with Ashley Bullion on mound

PLANT CITY — Plant City softball coach Ashley Bullion is 4-for-4 after Thursday night.Four years at the helm, four district titles.The latest championship came in a 4-1 victory over East Bay in the Class 8A, District 6 final, a victory highligh...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Softball: Recent momentum carries Mitchell past Sunlake

LAND O' LAKES — Despite being on the wrong end of two lopsided outcomes to Sunlake during the regular season, recent events gave Mitchell hope in its Class 7A-10 district final rematch with the Seahawks.Just two days prior, the Mustangs be...
Updated: 5 hours ago
The Daystarter: We recap the first night of the NFL draft; has Florida’s bet on cybersecurity worked?; NRA fundraising strong as ever

The Daystarter: We recap the first night of the NFL draft; has Florida’s bet on cybersecurity worked?; NRA fundraising strong as ever

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Expect some clouds this morning as a weak front moves in, though rain chances stay low, according to 10Weather WTSP. The afternoon high will be in the upper 70s. The weekend brings th...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Softball: Robinson makes it 10 straight wins vs. Jefferson

TAMPA — For the Robinson softball team, the perfect 10 was complete.The top-seeded Knights defeated No. 2 Jefferson for the 10th consecutive time Thursday and claimed their fifth district championship in a row, a 12-2 five-inning victory in the...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Softball: It’s April, so Chamberlain is winning

TAMPA — Coach Bob Diez and his Chamberlain Chiefs have always believed in this motto: "Be good in April."This is their season.The Chiefs added another Class 7A-8 district title Thursday against Gaither with a 7-0 victory.With the win, the ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Softball: East Lake is aggressive from the start

TARPON SPRINGS — If strong pitching and defense are the bellwethers of a deep playoff run, consider East Lake ready.Playing second seed Pinellas Park on Thursday night for the Class 8A-7 title, the host Eagles (22-3) used that philosophy to mak...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Florida wants to build a cybersecurity sector. The question is how?

Florida wants to build a cybersecurity sector. The question is how?

TAMPA — In 2014, the Florida Center for Cybersecurity was established by the Legislature with several purposes in mind:Lawmakers tasked "FC2" with bringing high-paying jobs to Florida, attracting companies in industries such as defense, health care, ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Educators see red in Arizona, Colorado; funerals set for some Waffle House victims; Ford ditches U.S. cars; more in U.S. news

Educators see red in Arizona, Colorado; funerals set for some Waffle House victims; Ford ditches U.S. cars; more in U.S. news

ArizonaEducators, students see redA sea of teachers clad in red shirts and holding "Money for Schools" signs reached the Arizona Capitol to press lawmakers for action Thursday, a key event in an unprecedented walkout that closed most of the state’s p...
Updated: 10 hours ago