76-mile Everglades bike path draws opponents

Author: The Associated Press
Published: Updated:

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, Fla. (AP) – A proposal for a 76-mile bike path through the Everglades has drawn an eclectic field of opponents.

The initial plans called for a paved path, 12 to 14 feet wide, running parallel to the Tamiami Trail, with trail heads every 10 to 12 miles with parking, restrooms, water, picnic areas and vending machines. But the bicycling group that originally proposed the project, the Naples Pathway Coalition, has dropped its involvement, and environmentalists, hunters and some residents have been voicing dissent.

The Sierra Club drafted a letter to Miami-Dade County officials, who are leading planning on the proposal, saying it would “destroy wetlands, disrupt watersheds, fragment critical wildlife habitat, encroach on indigenous lands, desecrate burial grounds, disturb historic battlefields, undermine Everglades restoration and result in commercial development of the Big Cypress and Greater Everglades.”

Signing on to the criticisms was a smattering of others, including hunting groups such as the Everglades Coordinating Council, Safari Club International, United Waterfowlers of Florida, the Collier Sportsmen and Conservation Club and the Florida Sportsmen’s Conservation Association; and environmental groups including Greenpeace, the South Florida Wildlands Association, Center for Biological Diversity, Love the Everglades Movement and Everglades Trust.

Still, no one is counting out the project quite yet. Miami-Dade County expects to finish a feasibility study and master plan by year’s end, Mark Heinicke, project manager for the county parks and recreation department told the Sun Sentinel. Among his current tasks is going through hundreds of letters and emails commenting on the bike trail, many from supporters.

“We need these kind of trails to encourage people to exercise and do it safely,” wrote Gale Cote, of Melbourne. “Also a great resource to see and experience nature.”

Patty Huff, an Everglades City cyclist and one of the originators of the proposal, said it remains popular with people around the state and would give people a new way of seeing the Everglades.

“I think the benefits would be environmental education, stewardship of the land, teaching people about the Everglades,” she said. “When you get closer to nature, you appreciate more your surroundings.”

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