Monday, November 10, 2008

260-mile cycling tour to launch Florida wildflower tourism Nov. 15

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Herb Hiller (386-467-8223, 386-547-0395, hiller@funport.net) A weeklong cycling tour that launches from Palatka Nov. 15 will inaugurate a 260-mile five-county trail that will show off Florida’s fall wildflowers and lead the state’s development of green tourism. The weeklong St. Johns River to the Sea Loop ride, organized by Bike Florida Inc. and supported by the Florida Wildflower Foundation, will begin in Palatka then roll through St. Augustine, Flagler County and Daytona Beach before crossing Ponce Inlet by water taxi to New Smyrna Beach. From there, tour participants will pedal to Titusville, then turn north through DeBary, DeLand and Crescent City before returning to Palatka. Autumn coaxes vivid displays from native wildflowers all over the state, says Anne Mackay, Florida Wildflower Foundation board chair. “Florida lacks a colorful fall leaf change, but we can hold our own with our wildflower display,” she says. The Foundation’s support will enable Bike Florida to present educational seminars about wildflowers along the route. Participants will hear four presentations about the flowers they see and the industry and research that support them. Riders also will see wildflower plantings along State Road A1A in St. Johns and Flagler counties that were made possible by a Foundation grant in 2007. The tour comes two months after the signing of a memorandum of understanding by Brevard, Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns and Volusia counties that calls for the Loop to be paved and off-road by 2013. That year will mark the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Spain in North America and the naming of La Florida, first seen lavished with wildflowers. Even before it is finished, thousands of people a year are expected to ride the Loop. Ultimately, a half-million annual users are expected to enjoy what will be the longest multi-use loop trail in the Southeast. After the tour, maps of the route will be posted on Bike Florida’s Web site (www.bikeflorida.com) along with photos by John Moran, the state’s premier nature photographer, and video by filmmaker Robert Seidler, both of whom will ride the entire tour. In addition to the Florida Wildflower Foundation, chief sponsors of the inaugural tour include Bike Florida, the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation, River of Lakes Heritage Corridor and the Trust for Public Land. o0o

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