Category Archives: Extension News

President’s Corner – December 2018

From the President –

Thanksgiving is a time to express thanks. I’m honored to serve as the President of FLT, and thankful for the 12 other members of your Board of Directors. Each is passionate, bright, diligent, energetic, and self-motivated. They selflessly volunteer their time and energy to “support, promote, enhance, and protect The Legacy Trail and its connectors now and for future generations.”

I’m thankful for the unwavering support of local governments and their staff to embrace and value the many benefits to our community for a longer trail.

I’m thankful for the incredible efforts put forward by our volunteers and supporters who worked tirelessly for years to advocate for the extension.

I am most thankful for the 137,853 (71%) Sarasota County voters who not only agreed that investing in a multi-use, non-motorized trail connection between Sarasota and North Port was a worthy goal, but were willing to tax themselves to pay for it. You are each honorary Friends of the Legacy Trail members (we welcome you to join our 1,000 dues paying members)!

We have been singularly focused on advocacy for the extension. With funding now guaranteed, we will now chart a new set of FLT priorities to guide us for the next few years. The overwhelming margin of support gives us a strong “trail wind.” I’d welcome your suggestions on how we proceed. Contact me here.

Roger Normand, President
Friends of The Legacy Trail

It’s a Go!!!!

by Roger Normand, President FLT

Legacy Trail lovers, we are on our way to extending our beloved trail to the city of Sarasota and improved connectivity to North Port!

Surprising even the most optimistic Legacy Trail supporters, the Sarasota County-wide ballot issue garnered an ASTOUNDING 71% YES vote for a $65 million bond to extend the trail, sweeping 100 of 101 county precincts! That’s remarkable in a county that prides itself with keeping tax rates among the lowest in the state of Florida. Yet at every decision point, dating back to August 2013 when the county and Friends of the Legacy Trail (FLT) jointly funded a Feasibility Study, the Commissioners have methodically and unanimously endorsed taking the next step forward in pursuing the extension.

County residents emphatically reaffirmed the Commission’s actions by agreeing this was a worthy investment to improve safety, enhance health and quality of life, and provide substantial economic benefits to our community!

Such a massive win at the ballot box does not come without a herculean advocacy effort from your FLT Board, volunteers, and a growing network of supporters. We are also grateful for the efforts of the Trust for Public Lands (TPL). As a 501(c)(3), we were limited by law in promoting VOTE YES for the referendum. TPL established a political committee with individuals from across the political spectrum who were recognized and respected in the community. They raised funds, sought endorsements, and ran the Vote Yes campaign.

We also forged key alliances with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

Implementation efforts have already started, with county planning processes and the contractual due diligence review of the corridor underway. North Port Commissioners are excited to proceed.

As an often-heard local commercial proclaims, THIS IS A HUGE win for our community.

We will keep you informed through the future planning and implementation efforts!

The Fate of the Extension Rests with County Taxpayers

by Roger Normand

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 the Safe 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.

John Ringling Boulevard Trail Improvements

Traveling from Downtown to St. Armands is about to Get Easier for Cyclists, Runners

Traveling from downtown to St. Armands is about to get easier for cyclists, runners
The City Commission on Monday unanimously approved improvements to half a mile of the multi-use recreational trail spanning John Ringling Boulevard between the eastern foot of the Coon Key bridge and Washington Drive that will widen sidewalks to relieve congestion and make travel along the trail safer. The trail enables cyclists and pedestrians to travel to and from the mainland and St. Armands Key.
The multi-use recreational trail on Coon Key is part of the future Gulf Coast Trail, Ohrenstein said. The Gulf Coast Trail is supposed to fill in gaps between several existing trails, such as the Pinellas Trail and Sarasota County’s Legacy Trail. If accomplished, it will extend across seven coastal counties and link 250 to 300 miles of existing and future pathways.

It’s Official! Legacy Trail Extension Referendum Now on Fall General Election Ballot

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.

Click here for Herald-Tribune article.

 

FDOT Proposes $7.5M for Legacy Trail Extension

by Roger Normand

Just as we were publishing the previous newsletter we learned that the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) had included $7.5M in its 2022 – 2023 work plan to support actual construction of the Legacy Trail extension to Ashton Road.  This is the fruit of several years of efforts by the County, the MPO, FLT and other supporters to secure Florida SUN Trail funds.  (Florida provides $25M per year for trail building efforts across the state).

A BIG “THANK YOU” TO FDOT.  This is a vote of confidence in the County plans, since FDOT took this action before the County actually took title to the land.  Though scheduled later than desirable, funding can be accelerated if the construction is “shovel ready” and other projects are delayed.

We believe FDOT’s commitment underscores our view that the County’s providing the first funds for the extension will attract other governmental and private funds.

Gratitude in 2017 – Optimism for 2018

by Roger Normand

As 2017 came to a close, two words sum the view of most people when asked about efforts to extend the Legacy Trail:
GRATITUDE for the County buying a nearly 3 mile segment of abandoned rail corridor from CSX Transportation, Inc. in December; and OPTIMISM for a planned County-wide voter referendum in November 2018 to buy  the remaining rail corridor to downtown Sarasota, build a complete, paved trail with two overpasses and amenities, and help better connect North Port to the Legacy Trail. That gratitude was compounded with elation following news that FDOT had included $7.5M  in a future budget to support the extension.

FLT has now started its private fund raising “Square Foot” Campaign, raising over $24,000 in just a few weeks.  All funds will be used exclusively for construction and amenities along the extension.  We are hopeful that our partner local foundations will also find generous philanthropist willing to contribute substantial sums to the construction effort. We also believe that having purchased a segment of corridor, and having the remaining segment under contract, will now make us much more competitive for other state and federal funds.

As all of this transpires, the trail becomes ever more popular.  While final numbers aren’t available yet, we predict well over 200,000 annual trail uses for 2017, compared to 175,000 in 2016.

As we begin 2018, we are thrilled that there is a clear path to extend the Legacy Trail to downtown Sarasota, and create a better connection to it from North Port.  That path would link the two largest population centers of the county.  AND, It can all happen in the matter of a relatively few short years.

With the start of the new year, we have already begun expanding our advocacy efforts to prepare for the referendum next fall.  We are holding information tables at Farmers Markets in North Port, Venice, Sarasota, Phillippi Creek.  We are also exploring other high pedestrian volume opportunities to engage the public on the benefits of the extension.

County Buys Extension Segment to Ashton Road

by Roger Normand

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;

•    The Trust for Public Land, and their point man Doug Hattaway for helping negotiate the terms of sale;

•    The County Staff, from county administrator, department heads, to the many staff, all of whom tirelessly performed the necessary reviews and actions;

•    And a special note of gratitude to our 1,000 + FLT members, our hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers, the many business partners, our charitable partners the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, and the 10,000+ individuals who signed our petition supporting the extension.

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 friends@friendsofthelegacytrail.org for posting on our social media and website.

•         Invite us to bring our new Extend the Legacy Trail presentation to your business, HOA, or group;

•         Spread the word to your family, friends, and others;

•         Coming soon: sponsorship, commemorative contributions for benches, kiosks, shelters, as well as naming rights for portions or the entire trail. 

Up next is the planned November 2018 referendum.  We will be talking about that in future mailings.

But for now, buying the first segment of rail corridor is an immense win.  Let’s celebrate the REALITY that the Legacy Trail extension is happening….NOW.

We Are Very Close to Extending the Trail

by Roger Normand

Ahhh, we are – so -very – close to extending the County citizens’ ownership of the unused rail corridor to reach Ashton Road! This represents Phase 1 of a two phase purchase of the corridor to Payne Park, with Phase 2 acquisition contingent on a 2018 County-wide voter referendum.

November 30th marked the contractual end of the due diligence review by the County and their partner The Trust for Public Land (TPL) to acquire the 2.7-mile section of rail corridor (including a spur across McIntosh Road) between the northern end of the Legacy Trail at Culverhouse Nature Park, across Clark Road to Ashton Road. No significant issues emerged during the review.

The next, and final milestone to acquire this portion of the corridor is settlement by 20 December 2017, at which time title of the property would transfer from CSX through TPL to the County in exchange for $7.9M back through TPL to CSX.

The County had previously identified and committed the $7.9M, mostly by deferring other parkland acquisitions in FY-2017. We would expect the purchase to now be on autopilot.

Well, not quite yet. The County is still grappling with $5.4M budget shortfall for FY-18 now underway, and the sale contract for the rail corridor provides a “non-appropriations” clause that allows the County to walk away from the agreement without penalty if it does not provide the funds.

The Legacy Trail extension remains a top County priority. We remain optimistic that the County will follow through on its commitment and conclude this purchase, and we can prepare for the November 2018 referendum to acquire the remainder of the corridor to Payne Park and build the trail.