From Rails to Trails
- April 1, 2015
- / Emmalee Sutton
- / Post Tags
Just northeast of Pensacola, an 8.1mile trail in Milton, FL served as part of the early 1900s railroad to haul lumber from local longleaf pine forests to a sawmill in Bagdad, FL. This industry contributed to the evolution of towns along the railroad route. The rail line discontinued service in the 1930’s, but when America entered WWII, the United States Navy reopened and rebuilt the rails to ship aviation fuel to Whiting Field Naval Air Station.
NAS Whiting Field is one of the Navy’s primary pilot training bases, also providing training for the Coast Guard, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Whiting Field gets its name from Kenneth Whiting, a qualified submarine operator who was commissioned from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1908 and served in WWI.
Whiting Field has held a wide array of services to the U.S. throughout its history. It served as a prisoner-of-war camp, is the home of the Navy’s first jet training unit, and is the base for the renowned and beloved Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team. In just over three months, Whiting Field served to fulfill the need for pilot training commands in WWII. Throughout the war, the mission of NAS Whiting Field was to train top aviators for the fleet.
The rail lines have since been converted to Blackwater Heritage Trail, a product of the partnership between Florida’s Departments of Transportation and Environmental Protection and the United States Navy. Following the path of the Florida & Alabama Railroad, the northernmost portion of the trail is officially named the Military Heritage Trail. There are five trailheads from which to choose as well as parking and restrooms.