In an effort to fund state parks, seven Florida trails may soon be open to advertisers.
A bill to allow companies to buy ad space at trail access points is almost ready for debate in the Florida Senate. Nature enthusiasts aren’t very enthused about the plan.
Mae Cleveland is training for the Boston Marathon along the St. Mark's Trail in Tallahassee, her favorite place to train.
“I’m going to try to qualify for Boston, so give it one last shot,” she said as she set out on a 10-mile run. "They do a really good job keeping it up.”
Funding for state parks and trails is dwindling. Donations help, but more may be needed to keep the area clean and safe. State Senator Stephen Wise is moving a bill to allow companies to sponsor the St. Marks Trail and six others.
"They pave it, they keep it up, they cut the grass and do those kinds of things and make it nice," he said. "If you don’t have money to do that, what does it turn in to?”
The bill would allow companies to post signs up to 16 square feet in parking lots at trailheads. They could also put them at the head of the trail. Smaller signs, no larger than 4 square feet could be displayed at other public entrances.
Who can advertise and what the signs look like would be left up to the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails.
Mae’s not a huge fan of her favorite trail having a corporate sponsor.
“Personal preference, I just like the natural aspect of it,” she said. But if the choice is between opening the trail to ads or shutting them down, Mae and others choose ads.
The seven trails named in the bill are: Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, Blackwater Heritage Trail, St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail,
Nature Coast State Trail, Withlacoochee State Trail, General James A. Van Fleet State Trail, and Palatka-Lake Butler State Trail.
Eighty-five percent of the money generated from sponsors would be put into a trust fund set up to maintain the trails. the other 15 percent would be used to promote traffic and bike safety.