Times Remembered – and Lands Remembered

Mary Jean Yon,

I know you’ve heard this one before. Runners love Tallahassee for the abundance of trails and off-road options that are available to us. Local runners gather on weekends to enjoy the wonders of the woods. Elite athletes travel from Boulder, Colorado and Blowing Rock, North Carolina to train in our fair city and work out on those same trails. Browse the Gulf Winds web site and you’ll find tantalizing descriptions of over twenty area trails enticing runners to explore and enjoy.

Did you ever stop to wonder how all this land became so wonderfully dedicated to recreation and thus saved from development? At our next lecture series on July 27, we’ll hear the answer to that question and much more when Eric Draper joins us for an evening at the Tallahassee Parks & Recreation meeting room at Myers Park. Eric is the Policy Director for Audubon of Florida and is considered to be a leading advocate for land and water conservation programs. The title of his talk is, “Appreciating the Outdoor Recreational Benefits of Public Lands.”

Now I know most people typically think of Audubon as a club for birding enthusiasts. But in addition to that, the mission statement for this group also includes conserving and restoring natural ecosystems. Whether it’s for birds or people with bird legs from years of running, it suits me just fine that the purposes of Gulf Winds and Audubon overlap in this fashion. You’d probably be surprised to see how many of our members hold memberships in both organizations too. Eric, while not a Gulf Winds member himself, has family members in our club which enables us to understand his passion for the outdoors on a completely different level. His kid sister, Bonnie Wright, tells us it all goes back to their mother and eight simple words she used every Saturday…”Go outside and don’t come back until dinner!” Those words shaped the behavior of many a kid in the Draper family!

Ask anyone at the Department of Environmental Protection, where I work, and they’ll tell you Eric is considered a friend of the environment for the tireless work he does in the areas of land acquisition and conservation. We’ll hear about those efforts when we gather on July 27th at 7:30 p.m. and we’ll all rest a little easier knowing Eric is in there pushing hard for more money to purchase more recreational lands. Plus, your new found knowledge might just give you a new perspective as you head to the woods this summer to beat the heat!

And what about the Florida State track program? The men won their second consecutive National Championship while the women grabbed their second straight top twenty finish at fourteenth place! You may recall the optimism in Coach Bob Braman’s words when we previewed the 2007 season back in April. His conviction was strong that his men’s team could win back to back championships in two consecutive years. And my, oh my, did the team back him up! The men’s team began the outdoor season ranked #1 and captured title wins at both the ACC Championship and the NCAA East Regional meet before heading out to Sacramento, California for the National Championship competition. Those who ventured out to welcome the team back to Tallahassee and participated in the ceremonial lighting of the torch at the Unconquered Statue in order to celebrate this victory, were treated to quite the event. Coach Braman warmed our hearts by calling Gulf Winds out by name as one of many supporters of the team. He closed his remarks by saying, “This isn’t just a moment in the sun. We want to keep this going.” And I, for one, believe he will!

So as you run through the heat of the summer, remember the stars we are fortunate to have all around us. Whether it’s the people running on the trails or the track or the people working to bring you these venues…we are indeed a lucky bunch!