The Florida Overseas Heritage Trail is an ambitious project undertaken by the Office of Greenways & Trails (OGT), a division of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The goal is to connect the Florida Keys, from Key Largo to Key West, by one long multi-use path. Bike, hike, rollerblade, snorkel, kayak or fish, there will be something for everyone.
Starting at Mile Marker 106 in Key Largo, the trail will link current bike paths in places such as Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key, Big Coppitt Key and the Saddlebunch Keys, all the way down to Key West. Hundreds, if not thousands, of bicyclists make this trip every year now. However, with the lack of bike paths or even sidewalks in many places, it can be a very dangerous excursion. When the project is completed, it will be a much safer trip, making it a much more enjoyable trip.
Included in the plan is upgrading parts of Old US 1 which are now used by many for fishing. These leftover bits of road have been revamped for public access, the parts that are in extremely bad condition being fenced off, left for the use of the pelicans, seagulls, anhinga, osprey and other birds. The planned upgrades will leave fishing access clearly marked at the edges of the newly paved bike path.
OGT’s ultimate goal is a “scenic corridor extending from Key Largo to Key West that serves not only as a highway, but a recreational greenway that permits hiking, running, bicycling, in-line skating, sightseeing, fishing and kayaking.” They want everything from educational kiosks, interpretational art, boat ramps and scenic overlooks to small businesses cropping up to serve the trail users. This is a bold project indeed, but one that could pay off handsomely in the long run both for tourism and local residents.
Work is going on at several sections at the same time, so it’s easy to see how the work progresses.