Dept of Economic Opportunity Awards Grant to Alliance and ECFRPC

DEO Grant to Advance the SJR2C Loop


St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop marketing, research efforts get boost from state

Posted August 28, 2017 01:41 pm
By JAKE MARTIN (/authors/jake-martin-1)

Organizations supporting the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop stand to receive $75,000 from the state’s Department of Economic Opportunity to promote the trail.

The scope of work includes branding, mapping and marketing efforts as well as comprehensive planning and completion of a case study on agritourism in the multiuse trail’s corridor.

The grant award falls a bit short of the $89,000 requested by the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council and the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance, whose proposal to the DEO’s Technical Assistance Grant Program got the unanimous support of the St. Johns County Commission on August. 15.

Maggie Ardito, co-founder and president of the alliance, said the $75,000 from the state, plus some support to come from other sources, will be enough to get the job done. She told The Record on Thursday she expects the grant-funded work to be completed by the end of May 2018.

She said it’s important to the success of the loop trail to have good mapping and a comprehensive directory of resources and attractions around it.

“The support is definitely building,” Ardito said of community input and participation in the trail’s evolution. “A year ago, people didn’t really recognize the name.”

But that’s starting to change.

Ardito said the economic benefits of the trail are “indisputable” and that she believes once people see the trail and its potential for themselves, they will reach a similar conclusion. She pointed to the region’s unique historical sites, the abundance of park lands and the diversity of attractions reachable from the trail.

As written in the council’s grant proposal: “The Loop has the potential to revitalize small towns and rural areas and to transform communities along its path. It has the potential to stimulate trail-oriented development from Titusville to Palatka, from DeBary to St. Augustine, and many spots in between. It has the potential to draw cycle-oriented tourism from all over the world to less-traveled parts of Florida. Cycle-tourism is the best kind of tourism, bringing affluent, ecologically-aware people who are willing to travel slowly to immerse themselves in the unique history and small-town experiences our region has to offer.

” The county’s letter of support to the DEO signed by Commission Chair Jimmy Johns touts the potential economic development and eco-tourism opportunities along the trail. “The proposed strategic plan will help solidify branding for the Loop, and provide strategies for marketing, implementation, and collaboration across 5counties and numerous municipalities,” the letter says. “This plan will be instrumental in creating a cohesive message and plan for the Loop stakeholders.”

Johns on August 15 commended stakeholders for the partnership and collaboration among government agencies, nonprofits and other entities and individuals to give shape to a cohesive plan and vision for the trail.

“It is a quality-of-life item that has sustained itself, obviously being very well supported,” Johns said. “They have a very well laid out scope of work. This is the example of exactly the kind of information that I look for.”

The St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop is a 260-mile multi-use paved trail spanning five counties: Brevard, Volusia, Putnam, St. Johns and Flagler. Once completed, it is supposed to be the longest paved trail in the southeastern United States.