Corporate sponsorships of biking and hiking trails may soon be a sign of the times in Florida.
The weak economy coupled with the reluctance to raise taxes to pay for public services has prompted Florida legislators to approve corporate sponsorships for trails in the sunshine state.
The bill — SB 268 — is sitting on the desk of Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
The bill enables sponsors to place one 16-square-foot sign in the parking lot or at the trailhead of the trail, and other signs — 4 feet square — at other trail access points. No signs would be placed along the trail.
The signs would read: “(Corporation name) proudly sponsors the costs of maintaining the (name of greenway or trail).”
The bill names 7 trails that can receive corporate sponsorship. They are:
Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (106 miles)
Blackwater Heritage Trail (8.5 miles, (Milton)
Tallahassee-St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail (16 miles)
Nature Coast State Trail (32 miles, Wilcox Junction)
Withlacoochee State Trail (46 miles, Citrus Springs area)
General James A. Van Fleet State Trail (29 miles, Mabel-Lakeland)
Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail (10 miles finished of 107-mile corridor)
A late amendment also allows the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to negotiate with other potential sponsors for other trails. The Current reports that earlier opponents who had agreed to a compromise felt betrayed by this amendment that allows sponsorships of more than the seven trails.
Most of the revenue from sale of sponsorships will support management and operation of state greenway and trail facilities. The remaining 15% will be deposited in the state Transportation Trust Fund for use in Traffic and Bicycle Safety Education programs and the Safe Path to School program.
The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Irv Slosberg of Boca Raton, was quoted at The Current:
“I don’t want to start charging people coming on rails to trails. If you don’t have the revenue to do this, what do you do? There aren’t a lot of options.”
Other states have instituted user fees that can affect trail users.
In Washington, for instance, those who park drive through or park their cars at state parks need a $30 annual pass, or a $10 daily pass. This applies to folks parking their cars at the trailheads of the Iron Horse State Park to use the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. People who arrive by bicycle can use the parks for free, however.
Another example is Kansas, where the Prairie Spirit Rail Trail between Ottawa and Iola requires a $3.50 per day entrance free or $12.15 annual pass.