Trail Worker Award

This award recognizes an individual that has made outstanding contributions and provided consistent support for trail planning, development, or maintenance. It is intended to recognize the efforts of a private or public sector individual working for enhanced trail recreation on either the local, state, or national level.


Florida: Helen Koehler

Helen Koehler is a diehard equine trail advocate in Levy County, Florida.

Since having resided near the Goethe State Forest, she has marked over 100 miles of shared use trails as well as hosting the popular annual Goethe Challenge Endurance Ride which serves to fund raise for the woodland.

Helen Koehler is a native of Baton Rouge, LA and moved to Gainesville, FL in 1982. At that time she bought her first horse. Pleasure trail riding and later horse camping kindled a new awareness of nature-based activities that she enjoyed with family and friends. By the mid 1980’s, Helen had become an equine activity advocate, volunteering on various trail projects as well as serving on land-use committees. In 1995, she moved to Levy County and now resides next to Goethe State Forest.

Helen and her husband, Buck, have marked over 100 miles of shared use trails and annually host a very popular nationally sanctioned Endurance Ride called the Goethe Challenge as a fund-raiser for the Forest. Helen serves as the Trail Grants Program Liaison for the American Endurance Riding Conference. She chairs the Levy County Tourist Development Council and is president of The Goethe Trail, Inc., which is dedicated to nature-based equine tourism. Helen actively participates on Florida’s Recreational Trails Program Committee.

Many an equestrian owes much indebtedness to Helen, for it is with seemingly boundless energy that she works tirelessly for trails and open space. The dictionary should have a picture of Helen, with her horse, next to the definitions of “active” and “passionate”. She assists local, state and federal agencies with design and layout of equestrian trail facilities. Once a design is approved, Helen goes to work searching for funding, materials and volunteers to assist with construction. And, of course, you can later find her out on the trails helping with construction and signing.

Have a question about whether or not an area is suitable for equestrian trails and associated facilities or what materials would be best to use? Just call Helen. She will meet you in your office to go over maps and photos before visiting the site to walk and/or ride the area. Helen Koehler is the trail volunteer that every agency wishes they had. In Florida, we’re fortunate that she assists many.

Helen’s most often offered piece of advice for trail enthusiasts – get to know your land manager; offer your assistance. Which is exactly what she does – on an almost daily basis. Helen’s current project assisting the Office of Greenways & Trails is that of working with the site manager on the redesign of an equestrian campground and associated trails on the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. Not only does Helen actively work on trails, she assists various agencies and organizations through active participation on their trail related committees. Helen doesn’t stop there, for several years she’s volunteered as conference chair, committee member or speaker at local, regional and national equestrian trail conferences. In 2009, she coordinated the nationally recognized Southeastern Equestrian Trails Conference, which also hosted the State Trails Administrators Meeting, in Gainesville, FL.

Although the award is entitled “Trail Worker”, Helen would really prefer “Trail Volunteer”. To her, it is not work. It is her way of actively sharing and demonstrating a true love and passion for all recreational trails.

598 views • posted 01/16/2018