We are in need of Volunteers interested in helping us to staff Information Tables. These are held along the trail, at community events such as Farmers Markets, Health Fairs, Craft Shows, Festivals and other locations we feel would provide us an opportunity to speak with the public about The Legacy Trail and Friends of The Legacy Trail.
Some will be on a regular schedule and others will be as they come along. Information Tables allow us to honor the strong public support of The Legacy Trail Extension Referendum last fall by providing information about The Legacy Trail as well as regular updates on the plans for the extension project as it moves forward. They also help us to grow our membership base and support fund raising programs we have developed.
FLT Board members work these events with assistance from volunteers when needed. As interest and excitement grows for The Legacy Trail we would like to identify a group of volunteers who would enjoy this type of event and work with them to assure they have the training and information necessary to help us cover all requests. You don’t have to be a full-time resident in Sarasota County, just willing to talk with the public about The Legacy Trail and Friends of The Legacy Trail at events that are convenient for you. Can we add your name to this group? If so, please contact us here.
It’s easy to get swept up in the euphoria of the latest extension news. After all, it’s all good news, vision morphing into reality. But there’s much more going on along the existing trail. Let me highlight a few examples this past month.
January 9th marked the grand opening ceremony of the new Legacy Trail Overpass at Laurel Road. County Commissioners Maio, Hines, Moran and Florida Department of Transportation Director John Kubler participated in the ribbon cutting ceremony, to the delight of some 50 trail enthusiasts.
Commissioner Maio spoke of his efforts to secure County funds to
relocate major utility lines within the planned footprint of the
overpass. Director Kubler said this was a win-win project, as trail
users can now safely and easily cross the very busy four lane Laurel
Road, while vehicles now have one less red light to contend with. Left
unmentioned: trail users can delight in climbing a second Legacy Trail
“Florida Hill,” along with the SR 41 overpass in Venice!
A new frequent gathering spot for trail users is the intersection at the new Bay Street extension to Honore Avenue. FLT, with financial support from the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, donated a new $5,900 ADA compliant multi-level water fountain at this intersection. The County installed this already-popular water fountain in January 2019. The fountain is Fido the dog friendly, and can fill tall jugs. Check it out and stay hydrated in style.
Least visible, but no less important, FLT donated and the County installed a second $3,000 passive infrared Eco-counter on the trail. (A third counter is on order.) These new counters are far more reliable, accurate, and far easier to harvest the data than the previous TrafX counters initially installed along the trail eight years ago. We have long believed in the adage that if you don’t count, you don’t count! We want to report a statistically credible number of trail uses. To that end, the number of trail uses for 2018 is 216,000. That’s down four percent from the 225,000 reported in 2017. We attribute this slight decline to the more than yearlong havoc of construction projects at Bay Street and Laurel Road changing trail use patterns, and the effect of the persistent Red Tide reducing tourism.
FLT is an all-volunteer organization. Your contributions – time and money – produce real trail improvements. Thank you. Contact me at here if you’d like to join our cause.
Friends of The Legacy
Trail is a newly registered organization with the Amazon Smile
Foundation! We are now eligible to receive 0.5% of your Amazon Smile
purchases made here: http://smile.amazon.com
No additional cost to you! But donations from Amazon Smile will go directly to FLT!
Amazon Smile is the same as ordering on Amazon.com except you can
select from a list of eligible organizations and designate one to
receive a percentage of your purchase price from Amazon Smile
Foundation. (Amazon does not charge any administrative fees or take any
deduction from the donation amount and there is no cost to the
It’s easy-start shopping! Select Friends of The Legacy Trail!!
Thanks to Joan Attenberg for setting this up for us!
Without opposition, and amid a large contingent of yellow shirted Friends of Legacy Trail supporters, the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners (BCC) voted unanimously March 14th on a resolution to include a bond referendum on the regular November 6 ballot to extend the Legacy Trail.
If approved by county voters, the referendum would allow the county to borrow up to $65 million to buy another 6.5 miles of unused rail corridor (including spur) to extend the trail to Payne Park and Fruitville Road in the city of Sarasota. The referendum includes funds to allow the county to build the trail – including the portion to Ashton Road purchased by the County in December; trail overpasses at heavily trafficked intersections at Clark and Bee Ridge roads; parking, restrooms and water fountains; and provide funds to better connect the city of North Port to the Legacy Trail.
A key provision: UP TO $65 million.Carolyn Brown, the County’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, told the commissioners that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) had included $7.5M SUN Trail funds in their 2022/2023 draft work plan, pending approval in June 2018. She also said the County had requested another $4.2 million in SUN Trail funds for FDOT to build a trail overpass at Clark Road. Florida’s SUN Trail program provides $25 million per year for trail construction across the state. She indicated that any funds received would reduce the amount of bonding.
While $65 million is a large amount – the county estimates it at .08 mil in the ad valorem millage rate – it would amount to an annual tax increase of $16.00 per $200,000 real estate property valuation for 20 years. We believe that the collaboration of the county, the MPO, city governments and FLT representing the community provide a compelling case for securing SUN Trail and other potential funds that will reduce that amount.
Are the permanent benefits of extending the Legacy Trail – safety for trail users and motorists, enhanced quality of life and property values, opportunities to connect community trails to the Legacy Trail, support for theSafe Routes to School National Initiative , and non-motorized connections to area attractions, worth the cost of dinner once a year at an inexpensive area restaurant? We think so! FLT and our partners will continue to engage, inform and convince residents that the Legacy Trail extension is a sound investment in our community.
FLT would like to thank the Commissioners for their action, and thank all of our supporters and trail users who have gotten us to this point.
Three events. Three locations. Three consecutive days. A trio of music. food, and vendors. Five organizations. All sharing an active mobility theme. What at weekend! A big thank you to whoever scheduled three days of spectacularly beautiful Sarasota weather with lots of blue sky, sunshine, and comfortable temps.
Sarasota County led the festivities with the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the opening of the Legacy Trail at an event Friday at Laurel Park in Nokomis. Board of County Commissioner Chair Nancy Detert commemorated the occasion, with Doug Hattaway of the Trust for Public Land recognizing individuals who championed the effort.
The Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization and the City of Sarasota held a Roll and Stroll event Saturday at Payne Park in downtown Sarasota. Along with promoting cycling/walking, participants were asked to try one of three routes less than two miles long from Payne Park to connect to the Sarasota waterfront and access the Barrier Islands. While survey data is still being accumulated, it appears the Oak Street route is the clear favorite among participants over the Ringling and Main Street routes. The latter two featured many businesses but gathering congestion, while Oak street traversed a classic old Florida residential neighborhood leading to Selby Gardens and onto a panoramic vista of Sarasota bay along a multi use regional trail.
The Sarasota/Manatee Bicycle Club and Friends of the Legacy Trail again joined with new sponsor the Trust for Public Land Tour de Parks. A record number of riders participated Sunday in the 20, 35 and 62 mile scenic routes, fueled by breakfast from First Watch, and lunch by Mattison’s. Event pics are available for viewing here.
If all goes according to plan, by late December 2017 Legacy Trail users gazing northward from the northern end of the trail by Culverhouse Nature Park will be seeing County property signs atop the overgrown, unused rail corridor now owned by CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSX) and its lessee Seminole Gulf Railway L.P. (SGR).
Field work has been completed by the County and its partner Trust for Public Land on an environmental assessment, title review, and boundary survey of the Phase 1 portion of the corridor to Ashton Road. CSX and SGR are participating in the review. Efforts are now focused on analyzing the results, as well as completing the review of over 30 existing individual licenses, leases and agreements and deciding whether to continue, modify, or terminate each one.
Despite beginning with an shortened timeline, and the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, the parties expect to complete the inspection review by 30 November 2017. Barring any unexpected findings, they will close on the property by December 20th, 2017, as provided in the sale contract.
Like the existing Legacy Trail, the Phase 1 corridor will be “railbanked” under the provisions of the National Trails System Act. According to the Rails to Trails Conservancy, “Railbanking is a method by which corridors that would otherwise be abandoned can be preserved for future rail use through interim conversion to a trail.” CSX and SGR recently filed to formally abandon this section of rail corridor with the Surface Transportation Board, which has national regulatory oversight on railroads. The Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners approved on October 31st sending a “letter to the Surface Transportation Board requesting issuance of a Public Use Condition, designation of Interim Trail Use, including a Statement of Willingness to Assume Financial Responsibility in response to the CSX Transportation/Seminole Gulf Railway application for abandonment.”
Efforts are also proceeding to draft language for a planned November 2018 County-wide referendum that, combined with a broad public fund raising effort and continued pursuit of grants, will finance both the Phase 2 acquisition of the corridor from CSX/SGR AND construction of both phases to extend the Legacy Trail to Payne Park in the city of Sarasota.
The future indeed looks bright for a dramatically expanded trail network in Sarasota County.
Sarasota County began mowing the sides of the trail this week. In this subtropical climate, it doesn’t take long for vegetation to rapidly encroach onto the pavement, or for roots to undermine the asphalt. The County is using what can only be described as One Mean Mowing Machine, with an articulating sidearm mower deck than can reach the edges of the raised trail surface. A flagger vehicle accompanies the mower to ensure trail closure. The mowing operation carefully avoids previously marked areas denoting the location of gopher tortoise burrows. Debris is blown off the trail after mowing is completed on each trail segment. The mowing operation is expected to extend through at least June 2. Stay tuned for updates.
The Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens) palm is a common sight along the Legacy Trail. Features include thickened trunks growing horizontally along the ground, a stalk with sharp saw-like “teeth,” and a rounded fan of long, narrow leaves. It is a classic native Florida plant: drought and fire tolerant, growing in sandy soils. In these pictures taken along the trail in Oscar Scherer State Park, the trunk still shows charred evidence of the prescribed burn conducted late last fall, yet the plants are thriving while any invasive plants are gone.
A little research revealed that these plants are very long lived (The Smithsonian reports some specimens may be 700 years old). The grape-like fruit is an important food source for many animals, including the gopher tortoise, and the plants provide cover for a wide variety of wildlife, including the threatened Florida scrub jay. The Saw Palmetto extract has a long history as an alternative medicine, most recently to prevent of treat prostate issues in men, though its therapeutic benefits have not been validated in scientific studies.
Sarasota County is marking gopher tortoise burrows along the trail in preparation for side-arm mowing the sides of the trail. The yellow caution tape serves to warn the mower operator of a nearby burrow and potential nearby turtles. A particular concern is the weight of the mower potentially collapsing the burrow and trapping the inhabitants. Gopher tortoises are listed as a Threatened Species in Florida, and both the tortoise and borrow are protected under state law. These land dwelling reptiles dig a network of borrows up to ten feet deep and 40 feet long, which they share with more than 350 other species! Interestingly, these herbivores “prune” the plants they eat, usually leaving a healthy plant to regrow.
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.