Realizing the Tri-County Agritourism Corridor

Work Summary by principals of the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance and subsequently by the Alliance

2008-2015

• Advocates conceive the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop.

• Adoption of the Loop as part of the East Coast Greenway.

• Inaugural tour of the Loop organized with Bike Florida.

• Bike Florida adopts Armstrong as a trail friendly community that begins to provide hospitality to Bike Florida tours.

• Based on the Bike Florida-Armstrong connection, the East Coast Greenway Alliance enters into a long-term partnership with the four-state Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor Commission to advance the Greenway by emphasis on its community building character.

2016

• The Florida Greenways and Trails Council selects the Loop as its first competitively selected long-distance trail for SUN Trail funding.

• FDOT commits to build the trail to completion.

• The Alliance forms and makes the Tri-County Agritourism Corridor its first locally resourceful economic development project.

• IRS awards the Alliance tax-exempt status.

• The Alliance works on the Corridor pro bono through 2016.

 

2017

• The Alliance prepares the case by which Comm. Jeb Smith secures the commitment of Comm. of Agriculture and Consumer Services Adam Putnam to feature agritourism in his February presentation at a St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce breakfast hosted by Blue Sky Farms.

• Bike Florida in March brings 629 cyclists for a week-long camping tour at the St. Johns County Fairground. The event earns some $8,500 for the SEA community that later in the year allows for the acquisition of a house directly on the trail as a new community and hospitality center.

March, new FDOT-built trailhead opens in Armstrong.

April, Alliance with partners meets with editorial board of the St. Augustine Record to position the Corridor for news and editorial attention.

May, Alliance and the Florida Agritourism Association meet with VCB to propose a statewide agritourism conference in St. Augustine in 2019.

June, FDOT wildflower consultant, requested by Alliance, evaluates Corridor sites for plantings. Formal report cites limited opportunities.

July, Alliance adds Corridor pages to its website.

• The DEP Office of Greenways and Trails holds a day-long August review of the Loop in St. Augustine, sponsored by Ameris Bank and England-Thims & Miller.

August, FDOT begins work on a trailhead west of Vermont Heights.

• The Alliance writes the grant for which DEO in October awards $75,000 to the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, North Florida Regional Council and the Alliance for master planning and mapping the Loop. Grant includes compiling a case study of the Tri-County Agritourism Corridor.

October, DEO awards the Town of Hastings a grant of $13,500 shared with the Alliance for three purposes: (1) to plan a celebration for opening of the trail through Hastings in August 2018, (2) to prepare a guide for investments in Hastings pertinent to the trail opening, and (3) to arrange an investors forum that pertains to the same. The Town advises that the grant is transferable to SJC.

October, FDOT substantially completes work on Hastings trailhead.

October, the Alliance enters into an internship program with Flagler College through its Office of College Relations. A first project prepares a questionnaire for distribution to Corridor farmers and related interests that will generate an inventory of visitor opportunities. SJC VCB agrees to distribute the questionnaire and tabulate results in a database that will lead to programs of DIY and guided tours (by motor vehicle as well as bicycle).

October, the first SJR2C Loop Alliance Summit takes place in DeLand and Enterprise. Keynote speaker is FDOT Chief Planner Jim Wood. The Tri-County Agritourism Corridor is featured. Sponsors include Florida Hospital Fish Memorial, the City of Titusville, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, Roy and Sandy Walters, Enterprise Preservation Society and the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority.

November, Rype & Readi at its Elkton Farm hosts the first Saturday brunch in the Corridor. Attendance: 120 fully paid.

December, the Alliance prepares an informational ListServe that will serve as a leadership source for late 2018 by when the Alliance seeks to spin off the Corridor as its own nonprofit company.

• The Alliance continues its work pro bono through 2017.

 

2018 (in prospect)

Through the year, the Alliance facilitates the Tri-County Agritourism Corridor as its own tax-exempt nonprofit company.

January, the Alliance meets with Slow Food First Coast to discuss collaboration that may continue the Tour de Farm, or lead to an independently-led equivalent program.

January, the Alliance contracts with the Communication Department of Flagler College for a marketing plan to advance the Tri-County Agritourism Corridor.

March 3, the second Corridor brunch at Rype & Readi Farm, Elkton

Late winter/spring, the Alliance, Flagler College through its Office of College Relations and the St. Johns County VCB convert the Corridor inventories to mapped DIY and guided itineraries for visitors into the Corridor.

April 22, the first “barn jam” in the Corridor takes place on Earth Day at Victoria Acres Farm in Spuds.

May/June, the Alliance distributes the first investors guide to Hastings and presents the first investors forum, both focused on opportunities from opening of the Palatka-to-St. Augustine State Trail through Hastings.

August 27-30, the Alliance leads a bicycling tour of the Corridor for the annual Extension Professional Associations of Florida convening in Ponte Vedra Beach (tentative).

August or October, the Alliance and partners celebrate opening of the Palatka-to-St. Augustine State Trail through Hastings.

September, St. Johns County VCB starts marketing the Corridor.

October, Sykes & Cooper Corn Maze, Elkton

December 1, 2, the Alliance renews its support role for the 7th annual Rails-to-Trails Celebration, Armstrong.