LT Extension Supporters Celebrate Progress To Payne Park

by Roger Normand

Legacy Trail supporters celebrated a major step forward to extend the trail to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota. On August 29th the Board of County Commissioners unanimously endorsed twin resolutions for a two-phased approach to acquire the approximate 7.5 mile unused rail corridor from CSX Railroad and to construct the trail. The resolutions authorize the County Administrator to proceed with the acquisition of the rail corridor.

The resolutions come on the heels of the Trust for Public Land renegotiating the terms of an existing sale contract consistent with available County funds. Deputy County Administrator Jonathan Lewis, who will become County Administrator in January 2018 when current County Administrator Harmer departs to become city manager of Longboat Key, was a key participant in the final negotiations. The new contract retains nearly all the same terms, including a 14 percent discount to the appraised value of the corridor, but divides the cost with $7.9 million for Phase 1 due by December 2017 to purchase the 1.7 mile corridor to Ashton Road, and $30.1 million for Phase 2 due in 2019 for the remaining approximate 6 miles to Payne Park and Fruitville Road. The County had previously identified up to $8.6 million in its budget for Phase 1, with plans for a voter referendum in November 2018 to identify funds to pay for Phase 2.

It was not without some drama. Commissioner Detert asked to pull the two Legacy Trail extension proposals from the 40 items included on the Consent Agenda expected to be endorsed in a single motion without further discussion. She then suggested delaying the extension decision until the 2018 budget and revenue expectations are finalized in September. Commissioner Maio countered that “I want to see the Legacy Trail extension done” and could not foresee the September budget meeting undoing that effort. Commissioner Hines agreed, adding that the extension will provide “significant economic value.” “I don’t want to to lose momentum.”  Commissioner Moran noted that the agreement already provides the County an escape clause through November while they and TPL conduct the due diligence review (title search, survey, environmental assessment) on the property. The Commissioners asked for staff reports on the status on FL SUN Trail funding and a list of all federal and state grants that are available and which the County has pursued. Commissioner Hines concluded the discussion noting this is a huge financial undertaking for the County.  “The public needs to support this with more than just with tax dollars.”

The Friends of the Legacy Trail thank the Commissioners for their continued unanimous support for the extension. We emphatically agree to the need to seek state, federal and private funds, and have been directly involved with past County efforts to do so. Those efforts have been stymied because the County did not own or even have the rail corridor under contract. We have also been working with local private foundations, and have developed our own extension campaign to raise private funds. We and our partners will be ready to launch a broad fund raising campaign to support the extension once the county completes acquisition of Phase 1 in December. We are committed to help marshal public support for the November voter referendum.

In the meantime, all Legacy Trail enthusiasts can savor another victory in the goal to extend the Legacy Trail to downtown Sarasota.

Click here for the Herald Tribune editorial supporting the actions of the County Commissioners

The 8th Annual Tour de North Port

“It’s the Green Pumpkin!”
Sponsored by People for Trees, Inc.
Sunday, October 22, 2017

An organized scenic bicycle ride for cyclists to follow an on-road route of either 15, 35, or 65 miles that highlights North Port’s most natural settings and the parks that border the Myakkahatchee Creek with each route having its own color-coded road markings. This year’s ride will also offer a “Gravel Grinders” off-road route for mountain bike enthusiasts that will explore a portion of the Carlton Reserve. Printed directions for all the routes will be available and they can also be downloaded. The Tour de North Port is NOT a race.

Breakfast donated by FirstWatch, a catered lunch prepared by the Earth Cafe, delicious desserts including homemade pies, rest stops with homemade snacks, SAG provided by Louie’s Bicycle and The Bicycle Center. Pre-registration online by Oct. 20 $40, on-site $45. First 350 to pre-register by Oct. 1 are guaranteed to receive a free ride t-shirt, “got shade?” sunglasses, and a goodie bag. Doors open at 7AM, group starts begin at 8AM from Imagine School, 2757 Sycamore St. North Port. Register/more information at www.peoplefortrees.com .  Contact Alice White/941-426-9752, 941-468-2486 or email treelady12001@yahoo.com

Proceeds benefit the efforts of People for Trees, a local non-profit native tree advocacy group celebrating 20 years of educating the public about the importance of maintaining and protecting our native tree canopy.

Extension takes a giant leap forward

by Roger Normand and Andrea Seager

The Friends of the Legacy Trail have learned that there is a verbal agreement to new terms between Sarasota County, their partner Trust for Public Land, and CSX Railroad and their lessee Seminole Gulf Railroad, to acquire a portion of an unused rail corridor to extend the Legacy Trail into Downtown Sarasota!

The new agreement replaces previously negotiated terms calling for a two-phased acquisition with $20 million for phase 1 by December 2017 and $18 million for phase 2 by 2019. The County had allocated $8.6 million toward the extension during 2018 budget review sessions earlier this year, but was unlikely to achieve the remaining balance by this December. They asked the Trust for Public Land to renegotiate the terms based on the available funds.

The revised terms apply the available $8.6 million to buy the portion of the rail corridor from the northern terminus of the Legacy Trail at Culverhouse Nature Park, over Clark Road, to Ashton Road with closing in December 2017.

Once purchased, the County can begin applying for development and construction grants, and Friends of The Legacy Trail and our partners can begin fundraising in earnest for the extension.
The parties are working to finalize the revised terms and conditions before submitting it to the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) for approval expected later in August.

Stay tuned for further details, including the specific date and time for the BCC meeting. We will need all Legacy Trail Extension supporters to show up in Commission Chambers in their FLT yellow shirts to support this land purchase!
For questions, please do not hesitate to contact us here.

The Legacy Trail – Laurel Road Utility Relocation Project Begins

The county has started work today, August 8, to relocate utilities where The Legacy Trail crosses Laurel Road.  This work is being done in preparation for building a Legacy Trail bridge over Laurel Road.

The utility relocation work is expected to last approximately three months.

The Legacy Trail intersection crossing Laurel Road will be closed, and trail users will be detoured to cross East of The Legacy Trail at Mission Valley Estates.

For questions, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at (941) 861-5000.