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The Friends of Oscar Scherer Park has donated time and money for conservation projects as well as designed and built canoe docks, bridges, and barrier-free trails for the park.

 

arrow This project was nominated for a Partnership Award as part of the 2008 National Trails Awards, announced at the 19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

Friends of Oscar Scherer Park care for Florida trail system

The Friends of Oscar Scherer Park, Inc. have accomplished outstanding commitment to their community. They have worked beside park management to enhance a cultural and natural resource that is a “must see” destination for visitors worldwide. They have donated time and money for the conservation of the Florida scrub jay and its habitat; they have implemented the construction of a Nature Center; they have designed and built canoe docks, bridges and other structures in the park; and they have created one of the finest barrier-free nature trails in the country.

photo of group on trail

A crowd enjoying the trails at Friends of Oscar Scherer Park

 

The Lester Finley Barrier-Free Nature Trail, was one of the first accessible nature trails anywhere. This trail, which won state and national recognition when it opened, has recently undergone the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP) by a team of park professionals to enhance its value and usage. It is wheelchair accessible but is thought of by many new mothers as the perfect place to bring children in strollers— a quiet walk along South Creek entertains the children, the compacted trail allows easy terrain for the strollers, and the moms get their exercise.

Over the past two years, The Friends have improved the many miles of trails in the park by building foot bridges, adding state-approved interpretive and informational signage, designing and printing complimentary brochures and maps, and designing, purchasing, and installing large informational signs at every trailhead along with four 5’x 10’ map boards displaying the entire park.

Their dedication to the restoration, protection, and promotion of the endangered scrubby Flatwoods habitat and the Florida scrub-jay has been long lasting and unwavering. Their invaluable contributions benefit not just Oscar Scherer State Park but also our entire community— we even have a number of annual permit holders that come into the park daily to walk the trails with their pets.

Through their volunteer service, fund raising, and local activism, The Friends have increased awareness and protection of our endangered habitats and species. For example, on Sunday mornings during the busy tourist season (October-April), they offer guided walks through the scrub to see the wildlife, as well as weekly hikes for birders on Thursdays. Every year they host a 5K Race and 1-mile Fun Run/Walk on the park trails. This event attracts over 500 runners each year and is one of the best-organized races in our area. One of the greatest attractions is that kids under the age of 16 run free— by that I mean there is no charge— and this brings families to run together into the park.

photo of trail information sign and map

Map of the trails and safety tips on a clearly legible sign board

In January of 2007, The Friends launched an entirely new and different event to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Oscar Scherer State Park. Russ Delaney, an avid hiker and active member of The Friends, designed the ALL TRAILS HIKE specifically to highlight the trails. All 12 miles of this hike traverse most of the trails available in a "Figure 8" route. As hikers pass by the Nature Center, and all along the route, they are provided with water and refreshments. The inaugural event attracted individuals, families, pet walkers, and others— a total of 270 hikers. Because of this particular event, many people previously unfamiliar with the park, our goals and responsibilities, were introduced to ...the Real Florida™.

We frequently hear from local residents that they have driven by the park for many years but never stopped in. This leisurely-paced ALL TRAILS HIKE drew them and their families into the park for the first time. The hike promoted the values of family, exercise, environmental awareness, and wonderment of what lies just around the next bend.

Following are some quick facts about the All Trails Hike, courtesy of organizer Russ Delaney:

Each February, The Friends hold their ANNUAL 5K SCRUB JAY RUN and ONE-MILE FUN RUN/WALK on the trails in the park. The educational aspect of this run is to create awareness to the plight of the Florida scrub-jay and its habitat, the endangered scrubby Flatwoods. The average $7,000 raised annually through this race is used in the park to fund research and renew equipment, and materials are purchased and donated to the park for our Resource Management projects like the Prescribed Burning Program, and exotic plant removal. This race is sponsored by a grant from the Lee Wetherington Foundation.

The Friends biggest project during the past two years has been the revamping of all the hiking and nature trails. We have almost 17 miles of trails that provide visitors, cyclists, hikers, runners, and wheelchair users an opportunity to see ...the Real Florida™ in a great park. They have constructed footbridges, updated all the trail maps and added numerous trail map boards with clear directions.

Their most recent project was adapting our longest trail, The Yellow Trail, to intersect with The Legacy Trail a new “Rails-to-Trails” in Sarasota County, which opened in April 2008. The Friends worked with staff to create a new trailhead in the park to service this healthy feature that bisected the park. We worked beside Sarasota County for years to develop this 10-mile hiking, biking and roller blading paved trail.

The commitment of Friends of Oscar Scherer Park to the park, the community and the healthy benefits of being outdoors has been honored before and makes the park better everyday.

 

Visit the Friends of Oscar Scherer Park at: http://www.friendsofoscarscherer.com/

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