“Off Road” experience on Florida National Scenic Trail

Photography By ALICE MARY HERDEN

The Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) guides hikers through portions of Hernando County including the Cypress Lakes Preserve and the Withlacoochee State Forest (Croom). Its newest addition takes hikers through the Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area (CWEA).

Preparations began over a year ago on this section of the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST), re-routing trails along the roadway into the wildness type environment within the CWEA, more visually inspiring for hikers.


 Left to Right: Matt Koenig (FWC Wildlife Biologist) , Wes Calhoun (Volunteer for FNST), Mark Jenkins (FWC Public Access Biologists) , Jason Ballard (FWC Public Access Biologists) , Clint Barga (Wildlife Biologist), Jeff Glenn ( North Florida Regional Representative for FNST)

Volunteer Wes Calhoun, trail coordinator for the Florida Trail Association (FTA) Suncoast chapter, has helped coordinate over 200 miles of trail maintenance.

“I think the state really likes to highlight their properties, so they really encourage us to route the trail through their properties so people can see what they have to offer and can learn. For instance this (Perry Oldenburg) is a wildlife environmental area, which is a place they set aside for the gopher tortoise,” Calhoun said. “People can learn about the wildlife and the area that they (FWC) are trying to preserve.”


Jeff Glenn, North Florida Regional Representative for the Florida Trail Association, awaits to apply the orange trail blaze as FWC staff secures the 2 x 4.

Perry Oldenburg WEA is just one of three designated properties of Chinsegut WEA, which is managed by FWC’s Wildlife Biologist and land manager Matt Koenig.

“We ideally would love to have trails here that people want to walk and want to utilize, we (FWC) would like to get as many visitors out here as the area can support and help them appreciate wildlife and habitat,” Koenig said.


FWC employee applies plaque to trail intersection

This 380-acre area established in 1998 to compensate for gopher tortoise habitat lost to development, is a more pleasing and natural environment to hike other than along the roadside of US HWY 41.

“The trail in Perry Oldenburg has been here for a while but really has been on the road and with the help of FWC, the trail now has been re-routed to reduce the amount road walk and improve the scenic and wildlife quality for the hikers of the national scenic trail,” explained Jeff Glenn, North Florida Regional Representative for the Florida Trail Association.


FNST at Chinsegut Wildlife and Environmental Area

In addition to the trail through Perry Oldenburg, about one month ago, Jeff Glenn along with Wes Calhoun, and FWC’s Matt Koenig, Clint Barga and other FWC staff members and volunteers routed the FNST through the Chinsegut Conservation Tract. (Corner of 41 and Snow Memorial HWY)

This gives hikers a passageway into Brooksville history. In 1842, Chinsegut was once part of a 6,000 acre stake by Colonel Pearson of South Carolina. The property changed ownership a few more times over the years as well as the home of John and Susan Bishop who had timbered out most of the virgin longleaf pine until 2,082 acres were purchased by Colonel Raymond Robins in 1904. Robins named the area “Chinsegut” an Alaskan Inuit word that means “spirit of lost things.”

The trail guides hikers to the boardwalk that overlooks May’s Prairie, a nice scenic resting stop for hikers.

“It’s important to me just to get the trail off of the roads and into wild and scenic areas. It’s much more relaxing environment and something we want to preserve really, because there is so much civilization encroaching on everything. We want to (help) preserve these properties,” Wes Calhoun said.

Florida’s winter season makes hiking the FNST a popular outdoor activity and replacing road trails to scenic trails makes discovering nature more desirable.

With the new connection between FWC and FNST in Hernando County, this has brought new opportunities for more scenic trail routes.

“Building relationships, which is a big part of what I do. I work with landowners to establish partnerships, establish trail routing and really positive relationship with local communities to get the best possible routing we can,” Glenn said. “I think I have the greatest job in the world. I get to incorporate my passion into creating excellent recreational opportunities for people from across Florida.”

Staff and volunteers from the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Matt Koenig (FWC Wildlife Biologist) , Wes Calhoun (Volunteer for FNST), Mark Jenkins (FWC Public Access Biologist) , Jason Ballard (FWC Public Access Biologist) , Clint Barga (Wildlife Biologist), Jeff Glenn ( North Florida Regional Representative for FNST) finished the final blazing at Perry Oldenburg on February 14, 2018.

“Over 50 years of history, a year and a half to install and eliminate many miles of road walk, a year and half is worth the wait,” Glenn said.

Learn more:
http://www.floridatrail.org/
http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/lead/chinsegut/
http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/lead/perry-oldenburg

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