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Idea for advertisements on state trails moves forward

Sen. Steve Wise promises his proposal to offer up naming rights for state trails will not get out of hand.

"It's not going to be some giant billboard with flashing neon lights," said Wise, R-Jacksonville. He held up a normal-sized posterboard to demonstrate the proposed size to the audience of the Senate Transportation Commmitee on Wednesday.

He convinced most committee members, who voted in favor of it. Voting no were Democratic Sens. Audrey Gibson and Arthenia Joyner. Joyner said she did not want to see a proliferation of signs on trails.

SB 268, the brainchild of Boca Raton Rep. Irv Slosberg, would allow the Department of Environmental Protection to enter into concession agreements with non-profits businesses to advertise on state-owned trails and greenways. Wise doesn't like to use "advertising," though. He prefers "sponsorships."

Most of the money would go toward trail maintenance. Fifteen percent would go to the state transportation trust fund for use in a bicycle safety program. It's not yet clear how much money the state could reap from these ads.

Signs would be permissible where largely where signs already exist: trailheads, trail intersections, directional or distance markers, interpretive exhibits, and parking areas. Signs at parking lots or trailheads could be bigger, a maximum of 16 square feet. The others may not exceed 4 square feet.

Slosberg said he got the idea while hanging out at a Tallahassee railroad/trail spot that had neglected restroom facilities. Somehow, he said, the state needs to take care of these areas without increasing fees. He thanked the Senate for considering the bill. In the House, he said, "it's a different story."

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy supports the idea, said the group's Florida director, Ken Bryan. The state's office over greenways has been shellacked because of budget cuts, he said, and no one expects the crunch to stop anytime soon.

"I would argue that an open trail with tasteful signs is better than a closed trail with no signs," Bryan said.