Lawton Walked From Pensacola to Key West
In 1970 Lawton Chiles, a little known state representative from Lakeland, decided to run for the U.S. Senate. To generate interest and media coverage statewide, Chiles embarked on a 1,003 mile, 91-day walk across Florida from Pensacola to Key West. The walk earned him recognition, as well as the nickname that would follow him throughout his political career – “Walkin’ Lawton.” Chiles walked at times alone, and at times he was joined by ordinary Floridians. In later years, Chiles recalled that the walk allowed him to see Florida’s natural beauty, as well as the state’s problems, with fresh eyes. He won that race, and eventually was elected to two terms as governor of Florida.
While the goals of the Florida Wildlife Corridor are less politically oriented, we drew inspiration from the story of an ordinary Floridian connecting to citizens through a statewide trek. This expedition also follows the models set forth by John Muir and more recently Michael Fay, whose narratives of their wilderness experiences catalyzed conservation. Through the combination of a scientifically informed strategy and artful outreach, Fay’s “Megatransect” through Central Africa led to the creation of 13 new national parks in Gabon. Muir had pen and paper, Fay had color photographs and National Geographic. The Florida Wildlife Corridor has similar tools plus the new arsenal of social media. We will be able to report in vivid detail with words, photos and video straight from the field on a daily basis, providing a potentially unprecedented suite of public awareness.