Armstrong, which already has part of a state-developed bicycle trail running through it, is hoping cyclists can give this rural community an economic boost. With help from Bike Florida, a statewide organization that promotes bicycling, their vision may become a reality.
On Saturday, some of the Bike Florida staff as well as cyclists finishing up a week-long tour in St. Augustine will be guests at a brunch hosted by Armstrong residents. Those residents believe Armstrong can be a model for developing rural locations along what is known as the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor.
“Armstrong wants its trail to deliver development attuned to its rural needs,” said Herb Hiller of the East Coast Greenway Alliance and a volunteer with Bike Florida.
Armstrong lies along the Palatka to St. Augustine State Trail that’s part of the corridor, the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop and the East Coast Greenway between Maine and Florida.
Armstrong will be putting its hopes to the test. Bike Florida officials have added a breakfast stop in Armstrong to their late March tour that celebrates 20 years of Bike Florida Tours. That will mean some 800 cyclists stopping in Armstrong as Bike Florida celebrates in St. Augustine, where the very first tour began in 1994.
Seven-day and two-day tour options will be available for the ride that starts and ends in Palatka and includes layover days in St. Augustine and Daytona Beach.
Hiller said rail-trails have been a major force in turning around the economically distressed downtowns of Dunedin and Winter Garden.
Armstrong is looking for tour revenues to help support grants for a small grocery, café, clinic, local museum and overnight rooms, Hiller said.
Paul McManus, who is tour leader for the current St. Augustine ride, said the economic impact of cyclists is widespread including “hotel room, restaurants, souvenirs … and people often go back to the areas later, exploring and finding out more.. “Cycling is such a great way to travel. It’s a slow enough pace that you see things you don’t see by car,” he said.