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Greenways and Trails Forum for Orlando Area Development Professionals

Over 80 developers, landowners, agencies, resort operators, non-profits groups, and conservationists came together to create a vision of a greenways and trails network for Central Florida.

From the Office of Greenways & Trails
Florida Department of Environmental Protectionn

photo: bike on trail

 

 

The Forum Mission

  • Create a world-class greenways and trails network serving Central Florida.
  • Formulate an inspiring, achievable vision for this network
  • Assemble effective partnerships that will catalyze action in a timely way leading to trails and
    greenway corridors on the ground.

The First Step

Assemble a “roundtable” of key decision makers representing developers, builders, landowners, public agencies, resort operators, consulting firms, non-profit organizations, user groups and conservationists from in and around Central Florida to inform, update and identify strategies. Hold a day-long kick-off event.

The Event

On November 3, 2005, more than 80 people representing key stakeholder groups came together at the first Greenways and Trails Forum for Orlando Area Development Professionals (list of participants is attached at the end of this report). Local and national experts facilitated the Forum which provided an opportunity for interactive discussion and information sharing about:

  • How and why trails and greenways have become an integral part of community and
    destination planning.
  • How developments incorporate well-planned and connected trails and greenways.
  • The economic and market value of greenways and trails.
  • Findings from sustainable regional planning studies and the potential cost savings.
  • Strategies for expanding the greenways and trails network in Central Florida.
  • Integrating private and public greenways and trails.
  • Celebrating successes and accomplishments that have already been realized.
  • Setting priorities for greenway and trail projects.
  • Taking the next steps
photo: meeting
 

The Forum opened with a series of presentations addressing various aspects of greenways and trails related to developments. All of the PowerPoint presentations from the Forum are available on the Office of Greenways and Trails website.

The Morning Sessions: Background and Context

Session 1: Welcome and Introduction

Jim Wood, Assistant Director, Office of Greenways and Trails, welcomed the participants and outlined the objectives of the forum: "Coordinating the planning efforts of the private sector with public
projects is essential in order to create a regional network of greenways and trails, and this forum is a critical step towards forming the
partnerships to make that network a reality.”

Jeff Olson, Alta Planning and Design, Saratoga Springs, NY, provided an overview of current and emerging national trends in greenways and trails and why they are vital to shaping a better future for our communities.

Robert Searns, The Greenway Team, Denver, CO, presented an overview of successful trail and greenway planning, design and development techniques.

Bill Neumann, ASLA, The Greenway Team, Denver, CO, provided graphic and design
services.

photo: trail in a park
 

Session 2: State of the Art of Greenways and Trails in Development Planning

Erik Larsen, Palmer Design Company, Beat Kahli, Avalon Park and Joe Parinella, Universal City Property Management, described the integration of greenways and trails into successful private-sector development projects.

Session 3: Greenways and Trails—the Central Florida Context

Linda Chapin, Director, Metropolitan Center for Regional Studies, University of Central Florida, presented an overview of a comprehensive visioning study commissioned by the University with the assistance of national research experts from the University of Pennsylvania. The study compared the outcomes of alternative planning approaches for the next 50 years in Central Florida. The proposed “sustainable planning” scenario that includes a substantial greenway conservation network, showed a $66 billion savings. “As citizens, we have the responsibility to make choices about our future and press our elected representatives to honor our wishes in planning and investing in the future... if we decline to get involved... we still have made a choice: to do nothing.”

Session 4: Keynote Speaker

Harris Rosen, Rosen Hotels and Resorts spoke about the rich natural, cultural and historic heritage of Central Florida and the importance of preserving this legacy for current and future generations. He described his vision and plan for a greenway corridor along Shingle Creek from its headwaters in Orlando to the Florida Everglades.

photo: meeting
 

The Afternoon Sessions: Visioning, Priorities, Strategies, and Implementation

Facilitated by Robert Searns and Jeff Olson, these free-form brainstorming sessions consisted of discussion directed toward developing guiding principles, identifying opportunities and constraints, and establishing next steps for the group. The group was asked to imagine the “big picture” future for Central Florida, and what it will be in 5 to 10 years with respect to trails and natural resources. How will we bring people, trails and green spaces together?

Task One: Visioning and Guiding Principles

Participants suggested aspects of the trail and greenway vision including:

  • Trails as corridors of sustainable development – connectivity is critical.
  • Trails as a way of telling history and stories.
  • Build the Patrick Smith Trail *to Lake Okeechobee.
  • Remember wilderness—not all paved.
  • Trails developed as part of greenways.
  • Protect the historic natural landscape, an ecological legacy with wildlife-interconnected pathways - “trails for all species.”
  • More urban trails for transportation; toll road rights-of-way for trails; connect schools, churches, activity centers—inter-modal connections.
  • Serve the diversity of Florida’s population.
  • Offer quality trails maps and way-finding systems.
  • Create a world class system that showcases the diversity of Florida’s landscapes & offers ecotourism; trail B&B’s, cultural heritage trails, and environmental education.
  • Create a network of rail-trails statewide.
  • Financing is the biggest challenge. Build partnerships and make local politicians more aware. Partner with the health care community
  • Develop a marketing package for trails (2020 vision).
  • Encourage developers to have trails in plans before the review process.
  • Patrick Smith is author of an historical novel about Florida from the Civil War to the 1960s titled “A Land Remembered.”

The participants suggested the following guiding principles:

1. Diversity
2. Sustainability
3. Uniqueness (not Generica)
4. Involve communities in stewardship

Task Two: Identify Constraints and Challenges

  • Where does the money come from?
  • Political buy-in?
  • Land? Costs? Must make economic sense to business community. How to show and tell, convince developers and citizens it makes sense.
  • Opposition of public/neighborhoods.
  • Competing needs.
  • Operations and maintenance/security.
  • Bureaucratic hold-ups. Inadequate codes and resistance from some developers.
  • Lack of integrated and coordinated marketing strategy.
  • Tourism industry not yet sufficiently “getting it.”
  • Lack of regional forum for planning and discussion.
  • Permit requirements in environmentally sensitive lands costly, cumbersome; permits may be more costly than the trail.
  • Lack of effective champions.
  • Lack of awareness.
  • Inconsistency of design standards amongst jurisdictions.
  • How to get the Florida Department of Transportation on board with their rights-of-way.
  • Bring the engineering community on board.

Task Three: Suggest Catalytic Projects

The group suggested the following “catalytic projects” as important starting points in creating a world class Central Florida trail and greenway network:

1. Shingle Creek
2. River of Lakes Heritage Corridor
3. FNST Gateway Towns
4. West Orange Trail
5. St. Johns River Trail
6. Dinky Line Trail by 2010
7. Horizons West

Task Four: List of Recommended Actions

The participants listed the following recommended actions toward achieving the vision:

  • Marketing effort showing that a greenway is more than just a trail
  • Identify a “star” – a well-known and influential individual to champion the effort
  • Pursue seed funding
  • Build a base-map and inventory of existing and planned systems
  • Identify a guiding group to facilitate
  • Have a plan and marketing strategy/use public TV
  • Identify a funding source for planning design and development/Through legislature look at change to the formulas as to allocation of modal spending/Make the match requirement more equitable
  • Market showcase trails and create a roster of projects/demonstration projects.
  • Set a goal for a measurable outcome by a certain date (Orlando Mayor: “100 miles of bikeways by 2000”)
  • Get politicians to step up and get leadership to come forward/Create opportunities for
    leadership to blossom.
  • Recognize corporations like St. Joe (a private company that is developing new urbanism style communities).
  • Take this forum statewide working with FDOT to gain their buy-in.
  • Build partnerships—public, government and private with leaders, money and marketing and need to get a commitment from these parties.
  • Launch an aggressive education program from elected officials to the youth.
  • Address shortfalls of regulation
  • Identify incentives such as fast tracking, density bonuses
  • The comprehensive planning process needs to “beef-up” greenways and trails elements
  • Develop an ability to move and leverage funding especially among feds, non-profits, local jurisdictions and local interests.
  • Engage more community involvement. Engage and leverage volunteer time.

The Forum was Adjourned.

“Big potential exists in Florida for accomplishing innovative tasks…this state is unusually fluid in its attitudes and people respond when genuine education takes place. An aspect of fun attaches to living in Florida. That's what impels people to move here because they first came on vacation. This untapped willingness to learn about the place can drive trail development as much as it does conservation, historic preservation and additional positions of traditional virtue.”

--Herb Hiller, Writer and Forum Participant

Follow-Up and Next Steps

After the group developed the list of possible recommended actions (Task 4 above), the group then developed a list of specific action steps that would serve as the next steps to carry forward the momentum from the Forum:

1. Create web page highlighting the effort to integrate greenways and trails as part of development planning in Central Florida.

2. Distribute this Summary Report and invite commentary and suggestions.

  • Status/Timeline: Draft Summary Report was prepared by Robert Searns. It has been
    reviewed by the Office of Greenways & Trails and the East Central Florida Regional
    Planning Council. Second draft will be submitted to entire planning team by August
    2006, and Final will be distributed and released on web page prior to the National Trails
    Symposium in October 2006.

3. Form Regional Task Force to formulate implementation strategy based upon review of
recommended actions and catalytic projects.

  • Status/Timeline: Regional Task Force will be formally established following completion
    of Final Summary Report. Original planning team will convene by conference call no
    later than October 1, 2006 to identify members of Task Force.

4. Identify ways to initiate implementation of the “catalytic” projects.
Status/Timeline: Details and deadline will be established by Regional Task Force.

5. Hold strategic conference call with key advocates, agency officials, developers,
stakeholders.

  • Status/Timeline: Details and deadline will be established by Regional Task Force.

6. Schedule the next forum.

  • Status/Timeline: Details and timeline will be established by Regional Task Force.

The Forum was planned and presented by: Office of Greenways and Trails Florida Department of Environmental Protection In coordination with the following:

  • City of Orlando
  • East Central Florida Regional Planning Council
  • Orange County
  • Osceola County
  • Osceola County Extension

The Forum was also an American Trails project. For information about having a similar forum in your community, please contact American Trails at (530) 547-2060 or read more at www.AmericanTrails.org.

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Updated June 4, 2008
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