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Fitness at a Port City of the Barge Canal–Palatka, Cross Florida Greenway

img_4252This beautiful walk is along the St. Johns River in Palatka.  For a longer walk, bike ride, or jog, you can take the sidewalk across the bridge to East Palatka. Gorgeous views of the River! Living History:  If the Cross Florida Barge Canal would have been completed, small towns along its route, including Palatka, Ocala, Dunnellon, and Inglis, would have become port cities for the Atlantic to Gulf shortcut across the state.  My family has owned homes in three of those towns since the 1960’s when conflicting opinions about building the barge canal were editorialized in newspapers, judged in the courts, and spoken at home and on the streets.  We moved to Palatka in 1967 when I was in the third grade.  I can still remember my father talking about the canal that many people were certain was going to be completed.  The eastern segment, that connected the Ocklawaha River with the St. Johns River near Palatka, was well underway with construction of dams, bridges, and locks.  Back then, Florida’s population was only about 6 million people and the environmental impact of growth had not taken its toll, nor did science fully understand the problems of dredging.  But, people did know that becoming a port city would bring jobs, growth, and economic improvements to their charming, river front towns.   I was too young to have an adult voice on the project, but I do remember that it did not seem like such a bad idea at the time.  And, I also remember it was shocking how much money was wasted before the project was abandoned.  Today, I’m delighted the land has been repurposed into a recreational greenway for hikers, bicyclers, boaters and horse riders.  I take this photograph of Palatka to show its beautiful park along the riverfront.  Who knows what it might look like if the barge canal had been completed?  With this global photo story, I salute people who know better than to judge history.  What seems obvious in hindsight, may have seemed different in a state with less than a third of today’s population and at a time when the environmental damage from growth, dredging and diverting water was not so well established .

By Stacey Gerhart

Stacey Gerhart, DVM is a veterinarian, world traveler and children's book author. Her fun and inspiring stories will leave you cheering for nature, wildlife, and protecting the planet. Stacey believes fiction pairs beautifully with non-fiction for parents and teachers to share stories with children to raise awareness about wildlife, environment, and sustainability.