Carolyn Brown, head of Sarasota County’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources, addresses the County Commissioners about The Legacy Trail Extension. The Commissioners unanimously approved including a referendum on the trail extension funding in the November general election.
Click here for video of Carolyn Brown’s presentation to the county commissioners on the funding referendum.
Break out the bubbly. Release the multi-colored balloons. Strike up the band. Welcome to the future addition to the Legacy Trail now reaching to Ashton Road!
Friends of the Legacy Trail is thrilled to report that Sarasota County, with their partner the Trust for Public Land, yesterday completed the purchase of an approximate 3 mile (with spur) segment of the now officially abandoned rail corridor from CSX Transportation, Inc. Click here for the joint County/TPL press release.
Yes, the Ashton Road segment of the Legacy Trail Extension may not be as gussied up as the current trail. Yes, it may not now be as smooth a surface, with the rails and ties still in place, and overgrown vegetation blocking portions. And yes, it’s just county property, not yet officially on the county books as part of the Legacy Trail. But all of that will surely come in time.
This is a HUGE step forward for safer, multi-use trails in our community. A big, hearty THANKS goes out to:
• The County Commissioners – current members Chair Nancy C. Detert, Vice Chair Charles D. Hines, Alan Maio, Paul Caragiulo, Michael A. Moran, and former commissioners Carolyn Mason and Christine Robinson for unanimously embracing the extension effort throughout the last four years at every milestone, finding the money in the budget to buy this first segment, and planning for a referendum next year to buy the second segment to Payne Park and build the trail;
There are many ways you can show your continued support for this effort:
• Contribute to our square foot campaign below (shameless plug – it’s a great holiday stocking stuffer, certificate worthy of memorabilia, tax deductible, 100% of proceeds support the extension);
• Take a picture of yourself by the new sign we’ve posted at the end of the paved trail by Culverhouse Nature Park and send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for posting on our social media and website.
Friends of The Legacy Trail has donated a new, more accurate, trail counter to the County Parks Department to monitor traffic on The Legacy Trail. Pictured, Jon Robinson, Division Manager, Natural Area Parks, Preserves and Trails (left), receives the counter from John League, President, Friends of The Legacy Trail (right).
FLT has performed two surveys in the past year to evaluate trail usage and user characteristics. The results of these surveys and analysis were recently used to increase the calculated trail usage from 120,000 to 175,000 users per year. Another finding from these surveys was that the currently-used trail counters are significantly under-counting trail usage. An investigation of alternative counting devices and technology led to the selection of the more accurate Eco-Counter device donated by FLT to the county.
Having accurate data to demonstrate the popularity of The Legacy Trail is very important in seeking financial support for the trail and the trail extension to Sarasota. This activity is currently being performed by both the County Parks Department (Thanks Megan!) and members of FLT. In the trail business the saying is “If we don’t count, we don’t get counted.”
To the delight of Legacy Trail supporters, County Commissioners committed $8.6 million to buy the land for a 7.5 mile trail extension. No previous funds had been identified. It was the first visible step in turning vision to reality for extending the existing 10.6 mile trail along an unused rail corridor into a multi-use paved path to Payne Park. Once built, the 175,000 annual users could quickly double as the trail reaches the urban core of the City of Sarasota.
The County Commissioners identified the funds during a March 29th day-long budget review session to align funds with established priorities for the County’s FY 2018 program. As Commissioner Hines noted, “The Legacy Trail is a big picture effort with broad county, public and private support. It is a priority, so we have to start building a pot of funds for it.” This was the second of six planned monthly budget meetings before the start of the new fiscal year which begins on October 1, 2017.
County Commissioners decided to use $0.9 million in available mobility fees, eliminate two lower priority proposed park purchases in the County’s Neighborhood Parkland Program ($2.6 million to acquire the Myakka River Oyster Bar site and $4.0 million for the Vamo Drive site) and commit up to $1.5 million in expected new revenue coming into the program at the beginning of FY-18 and apply these assets towards the purchase of the corridor.
While enthusiasm ruled the day, the County must still identify another $11.4 million by this December to meet the terms of the $20 million, Phase 1 sale contract negotiated by its partner the Trust for Public Land with corridor owner CSX Corporation. This first increment would purchase the rail corridor from the northern end of the trail at Culverhouse Nature Park to Bahia Vista. We hope the next several budget workshops will identify the remaining $11.4 million funds consistent with the Phase 1 terms.
Phase 2 requires another $18M no later than March 2019 to bring the trail from Bahia Vista to Payne Park and Fruitville Road. The County estimates the total land acquisition and construction cost at $56 to $60 million.
The fate of the State Representative Gruters HB 2109 bill now in the Florida Legislature to provide $15 million for the Legacy Trail remains uncertain. However, the $8.6 million signals the County’s commitment to extend the Legacy Trail, and will certainly buttress efforts already underway to attract other public and private funds. We commend the County staff and Commissioners for making this substantial initial commitment for the Legacy Trail.
At their 2/15/17 meeting, the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) showed strong support for trying to find County funds to buy the right-of-way for The Legacy Trail Extension now, rather than wait for a voter referendum in two years. They directed county staff to investigate all possible funding options and scenarios to get this done sooner rather than later. County staff will report back to the Commissioners at their budget meeting this Friday 2/17/17.
In other good news, we learned that the Trust for Public Land has now signed a contract to buy the right-of-way land from CSX. The current plan is for the land to be paid for in two phases. The first half of the trail will cost $20M and the second half will cost $18M. Completion of the sale is contingent upon Sarasota County finding funds to pay for the first half of the corridor by the end of 2017.
Thanks to everyone who wrote emails, made phone calls, and came to the BCC meeting to support The Legacy Trail Extension. The Commissioners received over 300 personal emails and many phone calls supporting the Extension. More than 100 supporters attended the meeting. Your support helped to demonstrate the strong community support for the Commissioners to act now.
The Florida Bicycling Association presented Friends of The Legacy Trail with its 2015 Trails Promoter of the Year Award at a ceremony on April 27, 2016 as part of the Sarasota County Commissioners meeting. Becky Alfonso, Florida Bicycle Association executive director, presented the award to Chuck Butterfield, FLT president.
The Sarasota County Commissioners unanimously endorsed proceeding with extending The Legacy Trail to downtown Sarasota at their 1 April 2015 meeting. The room was filled with many trail supporters wearing bright yellow FLT jerseys and others wearing colorful bike club jerseys. Thank you to the many Legacy Trail supporters for your visible support!
FLT Vice President Bruce Dillion began the discussion saying FLT had raised over $72 thousand in about a year to support the trail extension. There are more than 120,000 annual trail users. County Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Patrick Lui then gave the Commissioners a summary of the Feasibility Study completed by Cardno TBE. Lui asked the Commissioners to (1) approve the Feasibility Study and (2) direct the County Administrator to proceed with land appraisals for the railroad corridor.
A enthusiastic discussion about the trail extension followed. Commissioner Caragiulo: “How do we find ways to do this?” “It absolutely needs to be done.” Commissioner Maio: “ We’ve done some 125 fund raising events, and people say this is the greatest thing the County has ever done.” “This is a top priority.” Commissioner Hines: “Let’s get a contract, subject to an appraisal and any environmental issues.” “Let’s get this moving. Figure out the cost and get the money.” Commissioner Robinson: “Both the North and South trail extensions are important.” “Proceed with appropriate speed. Let’s get going.” She also expressed concern about federal lawsuits on reversionary rights in rail corridor transfers to public use.
Doug Hattaway from the Trust for Public Lands was in attendance and was asked to speak. TPL negotiated the purchase of the existing Legacy Trail with CSX, and is involved with similar sales across the U.S. Hattaway urged the Commissioners to proceed with the appraisal to answer the question ‘how much money are you looking for.” He said CSX is open to a purchase proposal. When asked how long would this take, Hathaway replied TPL has a contract template they are using with CSX at other locations. He estimated 2 months to tailer the contract, then 3 months to do the appraisals. The county needed to develop an acquisition strategy and line up possible funding sources.
In addressing funding options, Lui stated that the County staff was pursuing a Federal Tiger Grant, as previously approved by the Commissioners. There are potential federal, state and local funds. Chairman Maio suggested that the proposed changes to local impact fees are a potential funding source. Commissioner Caragiulo said that the trail extension would be a great spine through the county. “I would be looking under every couch, garbage can or cabinet for this money, because it has to get done.” He suggested assigning a full time county employee to work funding opportunities.
FLT appreciates the firm commitment from the Commissioners to both recommendations. We will continue to gather petitions and speaking engagements to build community support.
A video of the Commissioners discussion is available on the right hand sidebar.
“All aboard The Legacy Trail. Next stop, downtown Sarasota!”
[Initially posted March 2014] The vision to extend The Legacy Train from it’s current terminus at Culverhouse Nature Park on McIntosh Road 8 miles north to downtown Sarasota has taken a giant leap forward with the beginning of a Feasibility Study. Sarasota County awarded the study on 14 March 2014 to Cardno TBE, an international infrastructure and environmental services company with offices throughout the U.S., including here in Sarasota. Cardno TBE is no stranger to this task, having studied building multi-use trails elsewhere, and managed construction of the two existing bridges spanning Dona Bay and Roberts Bay on The Legacy Trail.
Larry Mau, Branch Manager of the Sarasota office of Cardno TBE, provided an overview of the feasibility study at the April 2014 meeting of the Friends of The Legacy Trail. CSX owns the railroad right of way, and has leased the land to Seminole Gulf Railroad. The notional path extends the existing trail from the current terminus at Culverhouse Nature Park in a straight line along the rail corridor north to Fruitville Road, where it would hook west to Payne Park, then turn north and terminate at Ringling Blvd.
The study is expected to last about six months, with half that time gathering data, performing technical analyses, and mapping the corridor. The study is expected to conclude by December 2014 with a final report and cost estimate to be presented to the Sarasota County Commissioners.
The study will analyze the existing railroad corridor and consider aspects of extending the trail, including:
Whether to retain the tracks and construct an adjacent trail, or remove the existing railroad tracks and replace them with a hard surface trail bed.
Need for bridges over waterways and at roadway intersections.
Physical properties of the corridor, such as soils, existing utilities.
Trail width (the existing trail is 12 feet wide), and consider the need to separate cyclists from pedestrians, particularly in the more congested downtown area.
Property ownership along the corridor.
Storm water management, including water retention ponds and wetlands.
Environmental site assessment, including the potential impact on threatened or endangered species.
Historical and cultural concerns.
Need for trail links to nearby schools, parking, SCAT bus service.
[March 2015] After several months of review by the Sarasota County staff, the Legacy Trail Extension Feasibility Study is now completed. The study recommends “that the County proceed with the design and construction of the Legacy Trail Extension using the rails-to-trails option with the purchase of the rail corridor.” Cardno, Inc., the study authors, estimated the construction cost of $16.8M including environmental cleanup. The full Legacy Trail Feasibility Study – Final. (without appendices) is available for review and download. Caution: this is a large, 28 MB file.
Trail Extension Brochure
[January 2015] FLT has prepared a Legacy Trail Extension Brochure. It contains trail maps, a summary of the benefits, and actions you can take to support bringing this multi use, non-motorized trail to downtown Sarasota.
Draft Feasibility Study Completed
[December 2014] We’ve taken another significant step forward in the vision to extend The Legacy Trail to the heart of downtown Sarasota. Sarasota County had awarded a Feasibility Study contract to Cardno TBE in March 2014. Larry Mau, Brach Manager of Sarasota Cardno office, provided an overview of the results of the draft Feasibility Study at the 2 December 2014 FLT meeting, just prior to delivering the draft report to the County.
Perhaps the two most important outcomes of the feasibility study are: (1)there are no unexpected major barriers to extend the trail along the existing rail corridor; (2) to recommend extending the trail to the center of the east side of the 29 acre Payne Park, the symbolic center of downtown Sarasota, located at the intersection of South School Avenue and Shopping Lane.
The study was initially delayed this spring while Cardno and Sarasota County sought permission and paid a permit fee to Seminole Gulf Railway, the leaseholder of the rail corridor from CSX Corporation, before gaining access to begin the site assessment.
The site visit found a number of siding and spur lines along the primary path. Many areas of the north-south leg of the corridor will require removing overgrown vegetation and regrading drainage ditches along the side of the rail line. In contrast, the east-west leg is fairly wide open and will require less work. There are two rail trestles in the corridor. Both are in good condition as are the steel rails, but many areas of the rail ties are substantially deteriorated.
The study identified CSX as the near sole exclusive landowner, though there appears to be a few areas of encroachment within the 100 foot right of way, including landscaping from abutting homeowners.
There are thirteen roadway crossings, some where the rail crossing on the roadway is in good condition, and others not. The study looked at road traffic volume, land configuration, and sight distances at these intersections. There are four major, heavy volume intersections at Clark, Beneva, Tuttle and Bee Ridge. To minimize the initial construction cost, the study assumes deferring building trail overpasses in favor of signage, traffic signals, and safe harbors in the middle of these intersections. The installed costs of these measures were not offered. Two pre-fabricated bridges are required to carry the trail over two Philippi Creak canals: an estimated 150 foot crossing north of Bahia Vista; the other a 75 foot crossing west of Beneva Road.
Cardno looked at two trail design options: retain the rails with an adjacent trail, or replace the rails with a trail. Cardno concludes either option is feasible and there is little benefit to retain the rails. The study proposes two types of trails: (1) a combined 14 foot wide trail consisting of a 6 foot wide pedestrian path and an 8 foot wide cycling/roller blading path; (2) a 16 foot wide trail double trails consisting of a six wide path for pedestrians and a ten foot wide path for bicycle/roller blading. The double or separated segments would combine in a single path within 65 feet of intersections.
The study proposes shelters spaced one mile apart, trail heads with parking spaces every two miles, and SCAT bus transit connection points.
There was some discussion on the extent of possible environmental contamination along the rail corridor. Larry noted than no obvious areas were noted in the assessment. A more detailed environmental sampling and analysis would be required to confirm this assumption.
The draft report was still under review by Cardno, and Larry was not able at the meeting to offer any land acquisition or construction estimates.
Cardno submitted the draft report to Sarasota County on 10 December, with a final report expected by mid-February 2015. Sarasota County staff will now begin to review the draft report. The final report, along with County staff analysis and recommendations, will be presented to the Sarasota County Commissioners in the next few months. A word of caution – this is a feasibility study subject to changes.
Stay tuned for details on the date and time for any public hearings, and how you can lend your voice to shape the outcome!