The American Trails organization previously proclaimed Florida the "Best Trails" state, recognizing it for "its vision, initiatives and management of its statewide system."
The award is given by the organization every two years in recognition of "contributions of volunteers, professionals, agencies and other leaders who are working to create a national system for all Americans," notes a press release issued by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
"Receiving the award is an incredible honor and recognizes the importance of connecting communities with green spaces to our environment and our economy," said DEP Deputy Secretary for Land and Recreation Bob Ballard. "Our region is known throughout the world for its pristine environment, and is a perfect showcase of those natural resources and recreational opportunities."
According to an article in the North Florida News Daily, the DEP currently manages approximately 80,000 acres of greenways and eight trails systems. Six of those eight were part of the nationwide "Rails to Trails" program, which are old railroad corridors that now host wide paths suitable for walkers/joggers, bicycle riders, and inline skaters. An estimated three million visitors per year use these for recreation.
"Florida has embraced the value of these with an enthusiasm and level of quality that is a model for the nation," noted Bob Searns, Chairman, Board of Directors for American Trails. "Exemplary programs like the [DEP] Office of Greenways and Trails' online database and regional forums have set a standard. Local and regional projects, are delivering a first class infrastructure for residents and an example for tourists to take back home."
The state and its employees won several other individual awards, including a "Trails and the Arts" award given to Pinellas County.