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Florida prepares to place advertising signs at some state trails

2:53 PM, Jul 12, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- How do you feel about commercial advertising at Florida's hiking and biking trails?

The Florida Park Service is moving ahead with a plan to allow advertising at seven state trails.

Florida lawmakers passed a law in 2012 allowing businesses to sponsor state greenways and trails to raise money for the system.

Supporters of the legislation said it could save parks and trails from being shut down because of budget cuts.

But critics argued the advertising would detract from natural areas. They said state trails offer people a chance to get away from city life.

Ken Bryan of the Rails to Trails Conservancy agrees that signs can diminish natural scenery, but he understands the need to raise money to take care of the trails.

"They were seriously talking about shutting down state parks and shutting down state trails and so we were trying to be proactive. Let's not shut down trails. It's better to have trails with tasteful signs then it is to have no trails with no signs. I can see both sides and we're certainly going to be watching the implementation of this closely."

The law restricts sponsorship signs to trailheads and access points. It also limits their size. Trailheads can have signs up to four-by-four feet and access points can have signs up to two-by-two feet.

Bryan says the Florida Park Service also has the power to choose appropriate sponsorship signs.

"There are restrictions on where they can be placed and the department has the ability to accept or reject any proposal that's submitted."

Eighty-five percent of the cash generated by sponsorship signs will go for maintenance or construction of greenways and trails. The other 15 percent will pay for bicycle and pedestrian safety programs.

The Florida Park Service will hold a teleconference on Monday to hear from any businesses interested in sponsoring one of the seven trails.

The seven sites are: the Blackwater Heritage Trail near Milton, the St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail in Tallahassee, Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail, Nature Coast State Trail, Withlacoochee State Trail, General James A. Van Fleet State Trail in Central Florida and the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.

Dave Heller

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