2014 has already been a huge year for trails in Florida, with funding secured for the Coast-to-Coast Connector project, the All Aboard Florida rail-with-trail proposal building steam and locals beating back a number of political threats to active transportation.
While all this was happening, the maiden voyage in May of the SunRail commuter train from Orlando to communities north crept a little under the radar of most trail users, with the excellent news that SunRail trains would carry bikes for free.
Combine that with the fact that the 17 weekday SunRail trains each day connect one of Florida's biggest cities to one of its best trail systems, and you have a remarkable new opportunity and asset for recreation and tourism.
That trail system is the still-developing St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop, which, when complete, will connect 250 miles of trail, much of it rail-trail, along Florida's east coast between Jacksonville and Titusville.
Although the completed system is still a few years away, already its components, including the East Central Regional Rail Trail, the Spring-to-Spring Trail and the Palatka to St. Augustine State Trail, are attracting trail users from across the country.
And now, all these trails and more are accessible via a short and inexpensive train ride from Orlando. Way to go, SunRail.
Aware of the importance of keeping the public and political momentum going to complete the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop, our friends at the East Coast Greenway this week launched the first-ever Florida Rail to Trail Tour (the loop is an important part of the East Coast Greenway connection between Maine and the Florida Keys).
Intrepid "tandemists" Mighk and Carol Wilson, Laura Hallam and Robert Seidler this week kicked off their trail-blazing journey around the loop with a SunRail ride from Orlando to the trail hub of DeBary. You can follow Mighk's blog about their adventures at commuteorlando.com/wordpress.