The Florida Scenic Highways Program (FSHP) was excited to host a Statewide Meeting on November 6, 2019!
The entire FSHP Community was invited to participate, with 46 people in attendance including byway leaders, local elected officials, agency representatives and other stakeholders filling the Stable Room at the beautiful DeBary Hall Historic Site & Trailhead in charming DeBary, Florida.
Located near the beautiful St. John’s River, the River of Lakes Heritage Corridor Scenic Byway in DeBary was the perfect setting for the event. This byway is a true gem that embodies a unique blend of sophisticated contemporary culture, rich historic preservation, and gorgeous natural Florida.
The group was welcomed by FDOT FSHP Coordinator Jeff Caster, Director of Transportation Operations of FDOT District 5 (D5) Alan Hyman P.E., FDOT D5 District Scenic Highway Coordinator Claudia Calzaretta, the Chair of the River of Lakes Heritage Corridor Cindy Sullivan, and the Manager of the beautiful historic DeBary Hall Tracy Mestre.
The day was packed with presentations on a variety of topics related to Florida Scenic Highways, starting with a fantastic overview of how byway leaders can impact key decisions related to FDOT projects along their byways, presented by the FDOT Director of the Office of Environmental Management Jason Watts.
The presentation, Byway Organizations: Build and Strengthen Your Partnership with the Department of Transportation, set a pro-active tone for the day.
Brenna Dacks, Regional Partnership Manager for Visit Florida, gave an energetic update and overview of Visit Florida’s marketing objectives and activities, highlighting how Byway Organizations can engage with the many marketing trainings, services, and resources they provide. Many byway representatives sung Visit Florida’s praises with testimonies about how beneficial a partnership with them has been for their individual organizations.
One of the most engaging sessions of the day was the Byway Showcase at 11 am. A representative from each Byway Organization in attendance gave a five-minute overview of their group’s recent successes and future plans.
The testimonies given by each representative were inspiring and informative and allowed representatives an opportunity to practice advocating for their byway. It was a productive hour of sharing and exchanging tools and ideas.
After lunch, Jim Sipes of Sand County Studios gave a presentation on Scenic & Aesthetic Guidelines: The Importance of Visual Quality to Florida Residents, Visitors, and Businesses. His presentation focused on efforts to beautify roadways across the nation, including wildlife crossings, blending artwork into the scenery, and design restrictions in certain states and regions. As a showcase of his work experience across the country, he provided ample examples of his familiarity with aesthetic elements, policies, and guidelines that may be used to enhance Florida roadways in the future.
The event’s site hosts Tim Baylie and Tracy Mestre of Volusia County’s Parks Recreation and Culture Division presented next.
Tim provided useful insight into the economic benefits of trails and gave an update on the progress of Volusia County Trails, including the development of a trail navigation phone app.
Tracy gave a presentation on the fascinating rich history of the DeBary Hall Historic Site, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places as the oldest intact building in southwest Volusia County.
Next came this year’s presentation of the Garry Balogh Inspiring Excellence Award. Garry Balogh was the FDOT District Scenic Highway Coordinator in FDOT D5 for 20 years. He retired and sadly soon after passed away. This Award is presented annually to a byway leader or volunteer who embodies Garry’s passion and effectiveness on behalf of the Florida Scenic Highways Program.
The recipient this year was Judy Hull of the Florida Keys Scenic Corridor Alliance (FLKSCA). She helped establish the FLKSCA, and along with Monroe County Government and the FDOT she helped establish goals and objectives aimed at renewed partnerships and bringing the federal All–American Road designation to the Keys. The county-wide “whistle stop” celebration that ensued when the All-American Road designation was received generated a momentum that powers the Alliance to this day. Judy’s focus on Florida’s one and only All-American Road has not waivered through the years and she is truly deserving of this prestigious award.
The next presenter was former Jacksonville City Councilman, John Crescimbeni who presented his top ten best practices for effective advocacy from the perspective of a citizen activist turned legislator.
He was followed by Michael Palozzi, Byway Specialist at Atkins North America, and Wanda Maloney, Byway Specialist for her company Corridor Solutions. They presented on recent and ongoing FSHP research projects involving surveys designed to measure the social and economic impact of a Florida Scenic Highway Designation.
The day ended with a heartfelt goodbye to the current FSHP team members and welcoming of the new team by Jeff Caster. Jeff will be retiring in 2020 and will be succeeded by Ashley Binder, who has been working with him on the current consultant contract that spanned the last five years.
He brought it home with a presentation on Vision 2025: The Future of the Florida Scenic Highways Program, stressing the importance of partnerships and creative financing, and crediting FHSP’s successes to the perseverance of the Byway Organizations’ hardworking and dedicated volunteers. He also expressed optimism about the recently-passed Reviving America’s Scenic Byways Act of 2019, proposing that this 2019 Statewide Meeting represents “Opening Day” for FSHP.
PDF versions of the Presentations are available here: