Monday, March 15, 2010

Florida State Senate Committee Discusses Eliminating Office of Greenways and Trails

Last week, in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Transportation Secretary voices his support for bicycling.

This week, here in Florida, members of the Senate General Government Appropriations Committee will be chatting about the elimination of the Office of Greenways and Trails.

The committee meets tomorrow, March 16 -- so I join the Florida Bicycle Association in asking to please email the following Committee Members to tell them the importance of greenways and trails in Florida:

Chair: Senator Carey Baker (R) --

Vice Chair: Senator Alfred "Al" Lawson, Jr. (D) --
(last year Senator Lawson made a proposal that saved OGT)

Senator Dave Aronberg (D) --

Senator Charles S. "Charlie" Dean, Sr. (R) --

Senator Steve Oelrich (R) --

Below is a sample letter:

I am writing to urge you to reject a proposal to eliminate the Office of Greenways and Trails and merge its functions with the state park system. The elimination of the 16 positions that run the Greenways and Trails program would essentially kill one of the shining stars of Florida's recreation and tourism businesses, all to save $1 million. The Greenways and Trails system receives 4 million visitors a year in Florida and has an economic impact of $95 million a year. This program cannot run without a staff and this small investment is yielding strong returns on our investment.

Just as the country is focused on alternative forms of transportation and on more healthy lifestyles to fight obesity, Florida would be eliminating one of its most successful programs to make progress on both those fronts. The residents and visitors of Florida consider the greenways and trails important to the quality of life here and what brings visitors back each year. I urge you to make smart economic decisions when you make budget cuts, and this proposal is not one of them. This office actually brings in revenues to the state.

Not only would this proposal shoot Florida in the foot economically but it would make Florida's bicycle and pedestrian safety situation even worse. From 2001 to 2008, the last year recorded, Florida has either been #1 or in the top 3 in the nation, in both bicycle and pedestrian fatalities. 1 out of 10 pedestrian fatalities occurs in Florida. 1 out of 6 bicycle fatalities occurs in Florida.

Florida needs safe places to walk and ride a bicycle.

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