Blackwater River State Forest was the recipient of the 2013 “Friend of the Trail Award” which is given by the Florida Trail Association to individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to the Florida Trail Association (FTA).

This prestigious award was presented to Blackwater River State Forest Service staff at its annual Personnel Meeting on May 15 by Helen Wigersma, Chair of the Western Gate Chapter of the Association, along with other members of the Chapter, including Trails Coordinator, Vernon Compton, and Associate Trails Coordinator, Ed Williamson.

The Award recognized Forest Service staff in general, and Tom Ledew, Manager of the Forest, and David Creamer, Forest Service Liaison with the Trail Association, in particular, for their support to FTA volunteers as they develop and maintain approximately 50 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail that winds through Blackwater River State Forest from the Yellow River to the Florida/Alabama state line.

In the nomination letter, the Forest Service was given recognition for “increasing state-wide training capabilities [for FTA members] in the western panhandle, actively supporting our local [Western Gate] chapter trail maintainers and activity leaders, and providing the general public with an outstanding location for outdoor recreation.”

During the presentation ceremony, Helen Wigersma also expressed appreciation to the Forest Service for its commitment to protecting the natural resources under its stewardship, providing hikers with a positive wilderness hiking experience, and gave a special word of thanks to Tom Ledew and David Creamer for creating a culture of open dialogue and providing timely responses to questions and issues of concern to its FTA constituency.