First is erosion and slope stabilization. Two commonly used natural methods are live staking and live fascines. Both techniques use cutting from living shrubs or young trees, which are able to root and become new plants. In the case of live stakes, they are simply pounded into the ground, often through burlap or other erosion prevention fabric. Live fascines use the same type of stakes, but they are bundled and laid in horizontal ditches at intervals up the slope. As the stakes take root, they form a weave that holds the soil together.
Another important topic we’ve been researching is invasive species control. We’d like to look at each of the most aggressive species in this area, but as an example we looked into control methods for popcorn trees (also known as Chinese tallow trees) and we found that frill girdling, in which the bark and outer layers of wood are cut away in a strip around the base of the tree, in combination with herbicide applied only to the cut area, has been most successful against this species. It also has the advantage of not requiring that the trees be cut all the way down and then hauled up the bluffs, which we feel could cause a lot of damage to the bluffs.
Rails with Trails:
This is a concept that we’d like to introduce for consideration along the rail road right-of-way at the base of the bluffs. We think this may constitute an opportunity for the Scenic Highway to be truly unique among Scenic Highways in Florida, in light of the views of Escambia Bay it would offer users, and we think it could be an incredible draw for visitors. This has become an increasingly popular thing in the U.S., and there are currently 65 highly used trails along rails in the country, with more planned. A trail along the rail line at the Escambia Bluffs would respond to the specific conditions that exist there — the frequency and speed of the trains, the topography, and vegetation. The advantage to such a trail is that it makes use of existing right-of-way corridor, that will afford pedestrians an experience of the bay and bluffs that they can’t experience from any other spot along the highway. There’s also the potential to decrease the current rampant trespassing that occurs along the rail line, by directing human traffic along a formal route, and controlling the points that grant people access to the beach. These photos show several existing trails, and the way in which they buffer in the setback distance from the active track. Fences, vegetation, and trees are all an option.
Rails to Trails schematic map:
This is an area we walked traversed ourselves, and felt that there was probably enough room along to accommodate a trail in the railroad right of way. These are points that we think could possibly connect to the rail trail to the Highway, and to the trail and boardwalk systems along other parts of the highway corridor.