Not all heroes wear capes. Some use the tools they need to restore local trails after Hurricane His Ian, including chainsaws, loppers, and heavy-duty push mowers.
Members of the Florida Trails Association, SORBA Orlando, and other Central Florida volunteers quickly got to work clearing up as much of the trail as possible, even though many trails remain flooded as the waterway reaches historic levels. I was.
“The Econ River flooded eight feet past its all-time high. At one section we saw the Econ River running across Snow Hill Road,” said Jerry Rogers, FTA’s Central Florida Trail Coordinator. Told. “Someone was kayaking over a bridge on Flagler Trail the other day and the top of the railing was about two feet underwater.”
However, many city, county, and state parks are open, and recovery is underway at a time when many people want to breathe fresh air and enjoy cooler temperatures.
“Recreation in our natural areas actually helps people after stressful situations,” Rogers said. “We just want to make sure it’s safe.”
In the face of the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and the beginning of the hiking season, the Florida Trail Association is assessing trail damage and scheduling open days, especially as the waters begin to recede.
In Central Florida, portions of the trail through public lands in the South Florida Water Management District and Florida forests are closed. This includes Charles H. Bronson, Little Big Eacon, and Seminole State Forest.
Within a week of Hurricane Ian’s move from the Florida peninsula, FTA volunteers gathered to explore Mills Creek, a relatively dry federal property near Chuluota, and Wekiwa Springs, one of the popular hiking trails. Cleaned up the Volksmarch Trail.
The biggest concern for trail stewards like Rogers is damage to infrastructure such as boardwalks and bridges that have spent time in the water.
“We cut down trees, it’s not a big deal. If we lack infrastructure, we need more money and time to replace it,” he said. “There was no major wind event. It was a flood event.
A series of trees fell across Soldiers Creek, causing erosion on a multi-use hiking and biking trail in Seminole County seen Wednesday, October 5, 2022.
A row of trees across Soldiers Creek causing erosion on a multi-use hiking and biking trail in Seminole County seen Wednesday, October 5, 2022. (Patrick Connolly/Orlando Sentinel)
mountain bike trail
The Orlando chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bike Association oversees seven trail systems from Seminole County to Clermont and south to Shingle Creek.
At the time of publication, none of the trails have been reopened. At least half is still submerged. Trails most affected by flooding include Soldiers Creek, Shingle Creek, UCF and Snow Hill in Little Big Econ State Forest.
Adventure Cycling manager and SORBA Orlando volunteer Kevin Bolton describes his disappointment when he found the Soldiers Creek Trail system underwater after Hurricane Ian.
Sue van Bernum, President of SORBA Orlando, said: “Mt Dora, managed by the Ocala Mountain Bike Association, is partially open.”
Additionally, the Santos Mountain Bike Trail is open along the Cross Florida Greenway near Ocala.
Soldiers Creek and Shingle Creek may open in the near future, but Van Burnham worries about setbacks because so much effort went into building and maintaining these trails. The trail system along the Econ River is another story.
“Snow Hill may not be seen until December,” Van Burnham said.
Orlando City/Orange County Parks
Many parks maintained by the City of Orlando and Orange County managed to reopen after Hurricane Ian.
From popular Kerry Park, home of Rock Springs’ swimming and tubing runs, to Lake Eola Park, many outdoor green spaces are reopening, allowing people in Central Florida to breathe in the fresh air.
“Having space for people to enjoy outdoor activities is essential to the well-being of our community, especially after two days of crouching during a hurricane,” said Matt Suedmeier, Manager of Orange County Parks and Recreation. Even more so after the .
Certain facilities remain closed, including swan boat rentals on Lake Eola and the Moss Park campground, which experienced flooding. The Greenwood Urban Wetlands in Orlando remain closed. In addition, the lakes and boat ramps under the control of Orange County and the City of Orlando are closed until further notice.
Leu Gardens, a property of the City of Orlando, lost several trees and plants during Hurricane Ian but showed no structural damage. Volunteers and staff have worked tirelessly to keep the ground clean.
“We hope to safely and fully reopen the gardens to guests as early as Monday, October 10,” read an emailed statement from Leu Gardens. “In the meantime, all events, classes and weddings will proceed as scheduled.”
Parks in Seminole County
All county wilderness areas are closed due to storm damage and flooding, amid historically high water levels in Seminole County lakes and the St. Johns River.
This includes the popular Black Bear Wilderness Area along the St. Johns River.
Open parks and trails include Big Tree Park, Red Bug Lake Park, Seminole Wekiva Trail, and Cross Seminole Trail.
Wekiva Island has been closed and half-submerged since Hurricane Ian passed through central Florida. Carrie Vanderhoof, manager of Longwood’s outdoor bar and riverfront hangout, is typically on the island seven days a week.
With time to spare, she went golfing and spent the day in Sanford.
“I’m hanging around waiting for the water to recede,” she said. “It’s a different vibe now, not something we like.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, Carrie Vanderhoef, manager of Wekiva Island in Longwood, shows where the river has reached the top and flooded the cabana.
On Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, Carrie Vanderhoef, manager of Wekiva Island in Longwood, shows where the river has reached the top and flooded the cabanas. (Patrick Connolly/Orlando Sentinel)
Vanderhoof said water levels in the Wekiba River haven’t reached as high as the flooding after Hurricane Irma, but they’re falling more slowly.
“I’m disappointed now because it’s not moving fast enough,” she said. “We want our staff back to work. We want people to get off. We’re bleeding money now.”
When the water level drops, our staff will pressure wash the decks and cabanas to get your destination ready as soon as possible.
“We’re punting this weekend,” said Vanderhoof. “We hope to have another grand opening next week (weekend).”
florida state park
While some of Florida’s state parks were closed due to Hurricane Ian, most of the popular Central Florida destinations have been able to reopen for guests.
Staff and volunteers worked to inspect and clean the park after Hurricane Ian hit central Florida.
“The most common impacts we have seen are fallen trees, power outages, floods and storm-related debris,” Florida DEP spokesperson Alexandra Cucuta said in an email.
Wekiwa Springs, Blue Springs, De Leon Springs, and Lake Louisa State Parks are all open to visitors, although some activities and facilities remain off-limits. For example, water activities at Blue Spring remain closed due to flooding.
De Leon Springs State Park in Volusia County, home to the beloved Old Sugar Mill Pancake House restaurant, remains closed during a roof replacement that was underway before the hurricane.
Check your city, county, volunteer organization, and state websites for up-to-date information on park and trail closures.
This story was originally published 2:00 AM on October 15, 2022.