Herb Hiller, guest columnist12:04 a.m. EDT May 24, 2016
As FLORIDA TODAY reported, last Friday was a banner day for Titusville when the bridge across Garden Street officially opened to walkers, bicyclists and people on wheelchairs along a portion of the Coast-to-Coast Connector, the 250-mile trail that will link Titusville with St. Petersburg.
Metaphorically, you could say that Titusville, with its growing system of trails, is where America is heading.
The demand and use of trails point to an inspiring rise in values that we all increasingly share: health and fitness, clean air, lessening roadway congestion, adding safety to how we otherwise move around, and improving household economy.
But the gains are more than metaphoric.
Titusville also marks the southern reach of the 260-mile St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop. The Loop and the Coast-to-Coast Connector (C2C) are the first long-distance trails funded by the new legislatively authorized SUN Trails program that ensures their finish by the Florida Department of Transportation in the shortest possible time.
Before the end of 2018, the two together will have some 80 miles, with one or two short gaps, connected to Titusville.
Next connection: Greenway
Further merged with these trails as they enter north Brevard is the East Coast Greenway that?s one-third the way complete along its 2,900-mile route between Maine and Florida. Below Titusville, the Greenway?s proposed route zigzags east-south-east across Merritt Island and along a planned make-over of SR 528 before reaching the barrier island and continuing to Sebastian Inlet.
For Titusville, the Garden Street bridge marks a transition from yesterday?s ?City of Service? that effectively lost its county seat and for a time its economy before becoming the ?Gateway to Nature and Space? and a hub of long-distance recreational trails. Ecotourism was in the region?s DNA before NASA formally set aside land for the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Canaveral National Seashore -- before bioluminescence on the Mosquito Lagoon became a kayaker?s mouthful.
Trails create green access. People can walk and bike more safely from where they live to where they want to go. Year after recent year the National Association of Home Builders reports that new home buyers value easy access to trails more than to a golf course.*
People who buy new homes tend to be young. They?re raising families. They?re building careers. They love their cars, but hate road-choked traffic. Florida?s steady lure comes with Floridians? rising frustration.
Show trails to recruits
Brevard is enjoying a new boom in aerospace. It?s already recruiting large numbers of highly skilled workers who will increasingly come from outside the county. When they arrive for interviews, why not encourage them to schedule weekend getaways or longer vacations? Make sure they learn about trails starting to lace the county together.
Where better than Brevard for the best and brightest to contemplate good pay with the natural leisure that the Space Coast so abundantly provides?
Trails add mystique that the new Garden Street bridge and its yet bobtailed trail to the north only hint at. Starting in 2018, significant numbers of visitors will start showing up with saddlebags and a lean and hungry look, who will contribute to the local economy without further choking roads.
It also means that Space Coast residents will be able to vacation for a week or two bicycling across Florida, looping around a scenic but secret inland region just back of the coast, and journeying to the far Keys or farther Canadian border.
When Brevard cleans up the Indian River Lagoon, how many more won?t want to call the county home?
Herb Hiller consults with the East Coast Greenway Alliance and lives in DeLand.