UF/CALS alumna publishes guide to hiking Florida’s water management districts

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – After working for nearly a decade as a land manager in Florida’s forests, Terri Mashour, 37, set out to write a book dedicated to more than 100 off-the-grid hikes across the state. Her book covers each of Florida’s five water management districts, which encompass millions of acres of public property.

“I saw mainly books about the Florida state parks, and I had hiked and walked numerous properties in my career that just weren’t in any guide books,” said the University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) alumna.

For five years, Mashour used a combination of aerial imagery and hiking to cover all the properties. In her book, she explains these little routes less traveled and the featured ecosystems in each area. She includes hiking tips and tricks, such as the perfect hiking season in Florida and plans to consider before hiking.

“I would camp on the district properties for a few days, since the entrance and sites are all free,” Mashour said. “It’s not like a state park; it’s total wilderness and an absolute adventure! Once you learn how to live in the woods, it’s empowering.”

Mashour’s book shares the stories of the ranchers who owned the lands before they were purchased by the water management districts. In addition, she adds personal anecdotes about being a woman land-manager in the woods while raising children. The book includes a section on how to be “country savvy” as well as how to problem solve in the woods.

“Terri’s new book is a wonderful resource for all who cherish and actively enjoy Florida’s exceptional natural resources,” said Terrell “Red” Baker, director of the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. “She is an inspiration to all who want to work in the natural resource management fields, but especially for women who are increasingly looking to the woods and waters for career opportunities.”

Mashour earned two master’s degrees in forest resources and conservation, one with a concentration in ecological restoration, from CALS. “Having a CALS degree gets you to one of the most rewarding, long-term jobs there is: being outside an office and in the environment,” Mashour said.

When she isn’t hiking or writing, Mashour runs the site Fun4FirstCoastKids.com as its cofounder. The site curates more than 4,000 calendar listings of family-friendly activities in Duval County and includes an accompanying resource blog. Prior to moving to Jacksonville where she now resides, Mashour ran an eco-tours business in Gainesville.

“Backcountry Trails of Florida: A Guide to Hiking Florida’s Water Management Districts” was released on Sept. 19 by the University Press of Florida and can be purchased here. Mashour plans to use her book to raise money for conservation organizations, such as St. Johns Riverkeeper and Conservation Trust for Florida, by giving them a portion of the proceeds from books they sell.

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The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. Visit the CALS website at cals.ufl.edu, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.

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