Resource Protection and Trail Management
There are numerous management issues to consider in early planning stages. Identifying these challenges up front will prevent problems later, and increase the sustainability of a trail:
Consider how you will handle human waste at remote campsites. Identify existing public facilities along the route and obtain permission to include in map information. Contact "Leave No Trace" to provide user guidelines in dealing with solid waste if no facilities are available.
It is critical to protect the carrying capacity of campsites and access points along the waterway. To maintain control over the amount of usage, consider instituting a campsite permit and reservation system. This also benefits paddling groups by avoiding group overlap and helps preserve the wilderness experience for each group. Keep the permit application process simple and at low or no cost (if possible) to increase compliance. It may be necessary to limit group size or the number of tents to minimize impacts on fragile environments.
Pick campsites that are not accessible by road where possible; this greatly reduces illegal camping and user conflict. When possible, choose sites with a shallow water approach that are not accessible by powerboat. Verify ownership of land through public records or the property appraiser and exercise care to protect the rights of property owners and land managers. Enlist the support of land managers early in the process to identify appropriate camping areas. If agency land use policy will need to be changed, allow for plenty of time.
Develop a monitoring and maintenance plan and visit campsites and access points at least two times annually to look for signs of overuse, erosion, litter, and vandalism. It may be necessary to contract with a private vendor to provide campsite maintenance if staff are not available. It may also be possible to have a Citizens' Support Organization (CSO), a "Friends' group, or other volunteers to accept responsibility for routine maintenance.
Identify early in planning who will be responsible for installing and maintaining signs and markers, and applying for a waterway marker permit. The permits are provided at no charge but it may take three or four months to complete the permitting process. Applications and permits are issued by the FWC Boating and Waterways Section. It is a legal requirement for signs to be permitted and follow a standardized format. Once the signs are installed, monitor the paddling trail on a routine basis and develop a contact mechanism for users to report vandalized or missing signs. See the section "Waterway Trail Markers" for more details.
Promote trail stewardship and provide low impact guidelines for users. Include applicable low impact tips on map guides and camping permits.
Be sure to ascertain the existence of any rare plant or animal species impacted by access points or camping sites, regardless of private or public land ownership. Contact the appropriate agency for species information. In Florida, look at the Florida Natural Area Inventories site (FNAI) at fnai.org to query their database by quadrant to determine location of these species. The website will walk you through the process.
Protect sensitive natural and cultural resources. Route the trail to avoid bird rookeries, eagles' nests, or cultural sites, and include wildlife viewing ethics and other resource conservation information in your guide. Wildlife viewing tips are available on-line. Avoid directing people to areas of archaeological importance where collection of artifacts must be avoided. Work with the guidelines and laws of the state concerning artifact collection and present clear information to the public. In Florida, access the Division of Historical Resources.