(1) In order to recognize the benefits of the outdoor areas of Florida, and in order to conserve, develop, and use the natural resources of this state for healthful and recreational purposes, it is declared to be the public policy of this state and the purpose of this chapter to provide the means and procedures for establishing and expanding a statewide system of greenways and trails for recreational and conservation purposes and which shall be designated as the “Florida Greenways and Trails System.” The standards by which the greenways and trails system shall be acquired, designated, administered, maintained, used, and expanded shall be consistent with the provisions of this chapter. It is the intent of the Legislature that these greenways and trails will serve to implement the concepts of ecosystems management while providing, where appropriate, recreational opportunities, including, but not limited to, equestrian activities, hiking, bicycling, canoeing, jogging, and historical and archaeological interpretation, thereby improving the health and welfare of the people.
(2) It is the intent of the Legislature that a statewide system of greenways and trails be established to provide open space benefiting environmentally sensitive lands and wildlife and providing people with access to healthful outdoor activities. It is also the intent of the Legislature to acquire or designate lands and waterways to facilitate the establishment of a statewide system of greenways and trails; to encourage the multiple use of public rights-of-way and use to the fullest extent existing and future scenic roads, highways, park roads, parkways, greenways, trails, and national recreational trails; to encourage the development of greenways and trails by counties, cities, special districts, and nongovernmental organizations to assist in such development by any means available; to coordinate greenway and trail plans and development by local governments with one another and with the state government and Federal Government; to encourage, whenever possible, the development of greenways and trails on federal lands by the Federal Government; and to encourage the owners of private lands to protect the existing ecological, historical, and cultural values of their lands, including those values derived from working landscapes.
(3) It is the intent of the Legislature that designated greenways and trails be located on public lands and waterways and, subject to the written agreement of the private landowner, on private lands. Designated greenways and trails located on public lands or waterways or on private lands may or may not provide public access, as agreed by the department or the landowner, respectively.
(4) It is the intent of the Legislature that information produced for the purpose of the identification of lands and waterways, both public and private, that are suitable for greenways and trails be used only for the purposes of:
(a) Setting priorities for acquisition, planning, and management of public lands and waterways for use as greenways and trails; and
(b) Identification of private lands which are eligible for designation as part of the greenways and trails system and are thereby eligible for incentives.
(5) The planning, development, operation, and maintenance of the Florida Greenways and Trails System authorized by this chapter is declared to be a public purpose, and the Department of Environmental Protection, together with other agencies of this state and all counties, municipalities, and special districts of this state, is authorized to spend public funds for such purposes and to accept gifts and grants of funds, property, or property rights from public or private sources to be used for such purposes.
(6) It is the intent of the Legislature to officially recognize the Florida National Scenic Trail as Florida’s official statewide nonmotorized trail from the Florida Panhandle to the Everglades and the Florida Keys, an approximate length of more than 1,400 miles. The Legislature recognizes the major contributions made in furtherance of the establishment of the Florida National Scenic Trail by the United States Government, including significant funding, and the efforts of private landowners, state government, and not-for-profit entities such as the Florida Trail Association. The Legislature also recognizes the significant economic benefit of nature-based recreation and the contributions to the state’s economy that arise from the creation and completion of the trail. In order to further its commitment to the residents of this state and the United States Government to complete the establishment of the trail in a permanent location, it is further the intent of the Legislature to:
(a) Encourage all state, regional, and local agencies that acquire lands to include in their land-buying efforts the acquisition of sufficient legal interest in the lands over which the trail passes to ensure its continued existence in a permanent location.
(b) Officially recognize the route of the trail for establishment and acquisition purposes as determined by the U.S.D.A. Forest Service, assisted by the Florida Trail Association, in the publication entitled “Preferred Routing for the Florida National Scenic Trail.”
(c) With the assistance of the Florida Trail Association and the Office of Greenways and Trails, encourage state land-buying agencies to consider the trail a single project with multiple phases for the purpose of listing and acquisition.
(d) Give positive consideration to the inclusion of private funds used to supplement the state’s contribution in its efforts to acquire fee or less-than-fee interests in lands that contain designated portions of the trail.
(e) Encourage private landowners to continue to allow the use of private property for trail purposes through existing and future incentives and liability protection.
(f) Encourage state and local agencies with economic and ecotourism development responsibilities to recognize the importance of the trail in bringing nature-based tourism to local communities along the trail route and to support acquisition and development activities for completion of the trail in a permanent location.