Ocala National Forest Four Wheel Drive Route
What follows is a summary of events that spans nearly 4 years.
The FL4WDA took part in the scoping periods of the Phase I and Phase II Access Designation Process (ADP), these were seperate areas of the Ocala National Forest that underwent trail inventory, route considerations and final decisions on what to designate as legal travel ways and what to close. Phase I area was primarly the outer edges of the Forest while Phase II was the center section left out by the first Phase (White=Phase I, Yellow=Phase II).
In Phase I the Forest Service addressed recreational outlets for motorized vehicles such as ATV/OHM but nothing for licensed Four Wheel Drive vehicles such as Jeeps and 4X4 Pickup Trucks. The FL4WDA Board of Directors (BOD) submitted comments during the Phase I ADP (sent on December 1, 2004) that addressed concerns for recreational opportunities, when the final decision did not properly take our comments into consideration we appealed the decision. FL4WDA BOD and United Four Wheel Drive's Legislative Advocate (Carla Boucher) met with the USFS in early 2006 to discuss all points of the appeal. What followed was a letter denying all counts. After much discussion and investigating it was decided on (by FL4WDA BOD and Member Club Presidents) that a lawsuit would not be in our best interest.
After a few meetings with the FL4WDA BOD and some insight from Off-road Land Use Advocates from around the country it was determined that our approach for "All or Nothing" should be replaced with "Designated Routes" so that our recreation could be accounted for and maintained properly on Public Land. In other terms, we understood that a dedicated route system was what the Forest Service was charged to implement and either we could try to get included in this or be entirely left out, it was a case of Quality vs Quantity that we began to focus on and pursue.
Many of the current Member Club Presidents met with FL4WDA BOD in Orlando, FL on August 5, 2006 so we could go over possible strategies to provide some areas in the Forest that would be of interest to our Members. What was determined and agreed upon were areas of the Forest that each club would "scope out" using GPS such that FL4WDA could submit a Proposed Four Wheel Drive Route to the Forest Service and create a new designation for our Recreation.
After submitting the FL4WDA Phase II Proposal within the ADP Comment Period the FL4WDA President and Vice President met with Ocala's District Ranger and Recreational Director on December 7, 2006. We covered many issues and was given a relative short time to locate additional trails that could be designated and included in the Final Decision if all was to go well. After submitting additional GPS coordinates for routes and making some adjustments, the FL4WDA submitted Comments on the Phase II Environmental Assessment which supported the decision to designate the Four Wheel Drive Route. The USFS Final Decision (signed Decemeber 7, 2007) was to include the Four Wheel Drive Route and Designate it as a Recreational Travel Way.
The first step to creating this trail on the ground was to sign it and that began on June 21, 2008. Tread Lightly and Hummer/GM graciously agreed to assist the funding of the signs with a donation to the Forest Service which would also pay for 3 Kiosks located at the South, Center and North ends of the Route. Shown below are some photographs from the June 21 Route Work Day.
List of clubs that showed up (if you are not shown below please let me know) :
The Orlando Jeep Club
Ocala Jeep Club
Mosquito County 4X4
Matanzas Jeep Club
Pirates of Moor
Wheelers For The Wounded
FJ Cruiser Forums
Xtreme 4X4 Adventures
Clay County 4x4
Lakeland Jeep Club
...and a handful of those not yet in clubs