There is a very active proposal to build a greenway trail along highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) from Miami, to just short of Naples, with a 3-mile trail to Everglades City.
Let's start by calling it for what it is: An ill-conceived, pork barrel spending project.
Yes, normally I would be in support of a trail. A bike trail is a good idea. But of the many trails created through the Rails-to-Trails program, they are on existing, abandoned railroad lines. I cannot think of any bike trail that does not use a large part of an abandon rail line. Usually, the cost to establish the trail is in the purchase of the land and the paving of an already existing, raised roadway.
But this trail is different than anything I have ever seen. The plan is calling for creating an entirely new, 75-mile, hard surface road through the everglades. In essence, creating a parallel Tamiami Trail highway.
Here is the web page: http://evergladesrogg.org/
Their web page says it up front: "Parallel to the Tamiami Trail (US. 41), the trail will be a hard-surfaced 12-14 foot wide corridor (separated from the highway) suitable for a range of non-motorized recreation."
Is there any idea how much this will cost? It will be millions; possibly billions, of dollars. This is building another Tamiami Trail through pristine wilderness, which cost Barron Collier a fortune 80 years ago, with a whole city operation to support the construction.
And these are your tax dollars. The project recently received a grant for a million dollars. But where is that money coming from? Florida DOT is listed as funding the project, and that grant money is not out of thin air, but your tax money.
My park had plans put on hold to renovate our campground since 2007, that would cost about as much as this first grant award. In fact, our parks have been on a severe spending freeze for the past three years, and are suffering for it. No park improvement projects have been built in that time. Park ranger salary has been frozen at 20k for 5 years.
The webpage for this trail lists my park as sending a letter of support. I do not know where they came up with this, but I never remember such a letter. The opinion of my park is that they currently have no opinion on it. Except something that will be built regardless, and we will have to maintain it without any more funding. How about one of those grants to rebuild our campground for the expected influx of people? The trail website list our park trails as having free admission, which is erroneous. They are not doing us any favors.
Do the planners /organizers of this trail have the permission of all the property owners along the way? I do not see any letter of endorsement listed from the Miccosukee Tribe. This trial will go through sensitive areas of their reservation and several villages that they dondt want people to go through. I know a burial ground along this proposed route that even tribal members avoid; I doubt they will let non-tribal members get close to it.
No planning is being done for the logistics of the trail. This project is an entirely new park that is 75 miles long. No mention of plans for new restrooms, comfort stations, drinking water, or possible new campgrounds. Currently along this route are several campgrounds, but during the winter these places are at full capacity of RV campers, with no space for primitive bike campers. And all these current campgrounds and restroom facilities that will support the trail are on the western half of the trail, leaving a large area that is not covered.
The trail will need a full-time staff to maintain it. For safety and security patrol. To clean and maintain rest areas and restrooms. To trim back the brush along the pathway. These things cannot be avoided. Who will provide this staff? And will the locals ride the trail with their ATV's after hours? Volunteers would be fine, but I doubt that you can get them out there every day in the hellacious summer, if you can find any here during that time of year.
So as you see, it is a grandiose idea, with no talk other than getting government grants.
And finally: Can't we just leave the Everglades well enough alone? This area is a vital part of water and estuary recharge that needs minimal impact from humans. A 75-mile long, hard surfaced road seems to be contrary to the Everglades restoration plan. Yes, they claim that they will put bridges along the way, but this is still a huge impact.
One local tour operator said that she had reservations about such a project. That it gave her an uncomfortable feeling about being contrary to the Everglades restoration. Her gut feeling is exactly right.