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2-4-17

North Florida’s majestic landscape
-Draws bicycle enthusiasts from across nation


The Suwannee River Greenway at Branford near Branford’s Ivey Park. -SVT Photo by Jeffry Boatright



By Jeffry Boatright


Florida certainly has no shortage of activities to entertain its residents and visitors. From fabulous theme parks to awe-inspiring beaches, there is something for everyone regardless of age or interests. The endless presence of golf courses, shopping centers, tennis courts, waters and woodlands is sure to offer excitement for the 20 million residents and tens of millions of visitors each year.


Residents of the Suwannee River Valley might have to travel a few hours or a couple of hundred miles to experience everything, or at least most, of what Florida has to offer, but we have a few amenities here that might not be as accessible in other areas of our amiable state.


In fact, we might take our area’s features for granted and even overlook them from time to time. Of course, we are generally conscious of our scenic rivers and lakes and their surroundings, but considerable effort has been put into other recreational outlets as well. One such endeavor has been the creation of numerous bicycle routes in our region. Bicycle enthusiasts have discovered the joys of North Florida and as a result of the Florida Greenways and Trails Act, which is intended to use the natural resources of this state for healthful and recreational purposes, bicyclists at all ability levels have access to asphalt trails through some of the region’s most delightful areas. North Florida has long been established as a favorite cycling destination. Each spring hundreds of bicycle enthusiasts converge on the area for the annual Florida Bicycle Safari. Traveling from various locations all across the nation, men and women of all ages are captivated by the area’s majestic landscape, tranquil surroundings, and slower pace from which most are accustomed.


While some visitors are drawn to North Florida for her world-famous springs and waterways, others, such as the participants of the Florida Bicycle Safari, choose to journey here to simply absorb a little sunshine and appreciate the beauty and serenity our region has to offer while participating in a healthy activity they love. A week later, the visiting bicyclists return to their respective homes, leaving our scenic area behind.


Residents of North Florida, however, remain with the continuing gift of a picturesque place to call home. Furthermore, for those who are interested in bicycling, a number of asphalt bicycle trails are nearby for tranquil recreation and exercise.


Several trails are available for bicycling, inline skating, jogging or simply walking. One such trail, Four Freedoms Trail in Madison County offers 12 miles of outdoor pleasure. Beginning at State Road 145 (Colin Kelly Highway), near the intersection of County Road 591, this trail ends at the Withlacoochee River on the Florida-Georgia border.


The Suwannee River Greenway at Branford is another trail that is sure to offer an enjoyable outing. Beginning just north of Branford at the intersection of U.S. 129 and County Road 248, the trail partially follows the corridor of what was once a CSX railway. The 14-mile trail also travels along U.S. 27 and concludes at the Ichetucknee River.


Sponsored by the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners and Branford Town Council, the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Office of Greenways and Trails and the Suwannee River Water Management District assisted in funding the Suwannee River Greenway at Branford.


While the trails and greenways are provided for the enjoyment of all, rules are posted to abide by. Motorized vehicles and overnight camping are prohibited. It is also advisable to read the online reviews prior to embarking on a trail by visiting http://www.traillink.com/stateactivity/fl-bike-trails.aspx. In doing so, one can appropriately plan for an enjoyable outing. It is always wise to have an ample supply of water and partner with others when enjoying the great outdoors as an added safety precaution


The asphalt trail, known as the Suwannee River Greenway at Branford, partially follows the corridor of what was once a CSX railway. -SVT Photo by Jeffry Boatright