Florida’s history of supporting environmental conservation and recreation dates back to the establishment of the Land Acquisition Trust Fund in 1963. Throughout the years, a number of programs have helped support this important trust fund—and today, Florida seeks to build on the success of these programs to fund other conservation and trail initiatives.
In 1990, the state legislature passed Preservation 2000, which dedicated $3 billion over 10 years to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for conservation and recreation. A decade later, the successor program, Florida Forever, had the same goal of providing $3 billion over 10 years through a portion of the state’s real estate transfer tax; however, after seven years of fully funding the trust fund through annual appropriations, the Florida Legislature ceased to fully fund it.
After subsequent attempts to restore full funding in the state legislator proved unsuccessful, a constitutional amendment—the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative, or Amendment 1—was placed on the ballot, providing upwards of $16 billion over 20 years for the conservation measures, including the creation of trails. The funding source itself called for no new taxes, instead setting aside one-third of the state’s tax on real estate transfers for these purposes. A large coalition of environmental and recreational interests, including Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), advocated for its successful passage.
RTC continues to work to secure a dedicated portion of the fund for the State Greenways and Trails Acquisition Program and Florida Communities Trust, and also seeks to fully fund the SUN Trail Network.
In addition to pursuing Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative funds as a 50 percent match, RTC worked with partners in the Florida Senate to create and partially fund the SUN Trail Network. This program—managed by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)—is currently supported by proceeds from new vehicle registration fees and provides (as of December 2016) $25 million to trail development statewide.
Over the course of 2016, FDOT announced the project recipients for nearly $125 million in SUN Trail Network program funding that will be distributed during their Five-Year Work Program.