Nov 18, 2006 Withlacoochee Bay Trail Bike Ride
Part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway
“Digging ourselves into a hole” was the title of an Oct 31, 1999 newspaper article distributed by Tampa Bay Group Sierra Club Outings Leader, Linda Lyon, at the Nov 18, 2006 Withlacoochee Bay Trail/Felburn Park bike ride. This bike trail is part of the 110 mile Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway which includes horse, hiking, and biking trails. The article, written by Craig Pittman of the St. Petersburg Times, explored the debacle of the Cross Florida Barge Canal begun in 1935 that virtually sliced Florida in two. The wild Ocklawaha River was in danger of being completely obliterated when ecologist Marjorie Harris Carr took action, rallying environmental groups to stop the massacre of this pristine natural resource. In 1998, the Cross Florida Barge Canal was renamed the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. Those interested in its history can visit http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/cfg/history.htm.
Our ten mile round trip bike ride along the infamous canal, from the Felburn Park Trailhead to Withlacoochee Bay, abounded in wildlife. Upon entering the trailhead, we were awestruck by a vast shimmering canopy of migratory Tree Swallows overhead – thousands upon thousands of them. Later, as we languished for a few minutes at the Gulf-of-Mexico end of the trail before heading back, we were visited by a dolphin and her two calves drawn to our party by clapping and friendly entreaties. "She's high-fiving us!" exclaimed Outings Leader, Gail Parsons, as she photographed our dolphin acquaintance deliberately splashing us with her dorsal fin (see photo).
The outing ended on a theme note – care and protection of the environment - with the sighting of a pool of freshwater fish in ‘Phils Lake’ in Felburn Park which Gail photographed. Inquisitive about the ‘Phil’ in ‘Phils Lake,’ Gail did some research following our outing. She uncovered the story of another extraordinary individual connected with the preservation of the environment, philanthropist Phil Felburn - a self made millionaire who gave generously to libraries and museums, and whose legacy lives on in the good works of the Felburn Foundation.
What an outing we had that day, history and acts of nobility commingling with the great outdoors. Who knows what next awaits us around that bend in the path or that fold in the sky …