Category Archives: Extension News

County seeks bond funds for Legacy Trail Extension

Taking the first visible step to implement the will of County voters, the Sarasota Board of County Commissioners (BCC) unanimously approved a resolution on January 29, 2019, to seek up to $65 million in new bond funds to finance the extension of the Legacy Trail.  County voters overwhelmingly approved the measure on the November 6, 2018 ballot to extend the trail along the abandoned rail corridor past Payne Park to Fruitville Road in downtown Sarasota, and better connect the city of North Port to the Legacy Trail.

Speaking on behalf of all trail users and advocates, Friends of the Legacy Trail Vice President Louis Kosiba thanked the commissioners for their unwavering support at every key decision point over the last six years for extending the Legacy Trail.  “Thank you for placing this issue before the voters. Thank you for your support to move the Legacy Trail Project along quickly so that citizens and visitors can enjoy a beautiful linear park which will connect the major cities across our county.  I would also like to thank the County’s administrative staff for their dedication and hard work to ensure The Legacy Trail is and will be the premier multi-use trail in Southwest Florida”.

“This is a big deal,” Commission Chairman Charles Hines said. “This is a major step, and I’m very excited we’re moving this forward as quickly as possible.”

The County will seek the bond funds in at least two series.  The County must move quickly to the bond market to secure $30.1 million needed by May 30, 2019 to close on the segment of rail corridor from Ashton Road to Fruitville Road.  This timing is per the August 2017 purchase contract with the Trust for Public Land, which negotiated the acquisition with CSX Transportation on behalf of the County.

The county plans to initially seek a total of $35 million in bonds.  This amount includes $2.0 million to better connect the City of North Port to the Legacy Trail, and $2.9 million to cover the cost of issuing the bond. It also includes funds to hire a planning and design firm for the entire rail corridor from Fruitville Road to Culverhouse Nature Park.  The County purchased the Culverhouse Park to Ashton Road segment in December 2017 under the terms of the same contract.  The County will pursue a second draw of bond funds to begin actual construction.

This is great news on several fronts: the new BCC remains committed to extending the Legacy Trail; they are moving promptly to secure the money to purchase the corridor AND hire professionals to begin the formal design process; it includes the promised $2 million for the North Port connection, even though no decision has been made on the actual route and cost.

Meanwhile, the Trust for Public Land and the County continue with the due diligence review (environmental assessment, title search, boundary survey, resolution of easements) without any showstoppers.  The due diligence must be completed by April 30, 2019 to enable settlement on 30 May, 2019.

Trail Extension News – January 2019

by Roger Normand

Big Yay! Funding for the extension has been secured, thanks to the overwhelming voter support for a $65 million bond referendum on the November 6, 2018, countywide general election. Now it’s on to those “pesky” implementation details! There are several key contractual dates (and some wiggle room) for the purchase of the rail corridor that were triggered by passage of the referendum:

  • April 30, 2019.  The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Sarasota County (the County) must complete the due diligence review of the rail corridor from Ashton Road to Fruitville Road.
  • May 30, 2019.  TPL and the county must close on the $30.1 million purchase for the property with the sellers, CSX Transportation, Inc. and the Atlantic Land and Improvement Company, and its lessee, Seminole Gulf Railway. This date is contingent upon the County and TPL accepting the findings of the due diligence review, and Seminole Gulf obtaining the expected approval from the Federal Surface Transportation Board to “railbank” the corridor for use as a trail.
  • November 29, 2019 (180 days after closing).  Seminole Gulf must complete removal of the rails, switches, and signal equipment. Note that the County is responsible for removals at highway crossings.

The due diligence process is identical to and uses many of the same participants as those that were previously used for the December 2017 rail corridor acquisition from the existing Legacy Trail termination at Culverhouse Nature Park to Ashton Road. All these efforts are underway:

  • A phase 1 (walking the corridor, historical record research) and phase 2 (soil sampling) physical and environmental assessment.
  • Title search, including a review of leases, licenses, easements, and agreements.
  • Boundary survey and resolution on any encroachment concerns.

From the President – January 2019

by Roger Normand, President, FLT

Out with the old, in with the new. New Year’s is a time to reflect on the past and look with optimism to the future. 2018 will remain a truly pivotal year for Legacy Trail enthusiasts and our community.

Achieving 71 percent voter endorsement, sweeping 100 out of 101 of the county precincts for a $65 million bond on the November ballot to extend the Legacy Trail to downtown Sarasota and better connect the city of North Port is astounding! I’m mindful that this euphoria is the result of countless, seemingly endless, energy-sapping hours of very hard work over six years by your Board of Directors, our volunteers, and partners to advocate throughout the County for the extension. We have a deep-seated satisfaction knowing how fundamentally this effort will benefit the health, safety, recreation, transportation, and economics of our community for generations to come.

Barring some unforeseen calamity, I have high confidence that the extension is on autopilot and will be built. So looking to the next few years, where should FLT focus its efforts? There are so many opportunities, like showcasing the unique character of our community along the new and existing trail, enhancing connections to the trail, and improving trail safety, to name but a few. Your Board of Directors will meet in January to decide how we can be most effective. I welcome your thoughts but would value even more your offer to help with your time and energy. In an all-volunteer organization like FLT, availability of committed people is often the limiting factor in what can be pursued. If you have a passion to make the trail a better place, please contact me here.

I would also like to publicly acknowledge the immense contributions by Andrea Seager, who served with me as co-chair of the Trail Extension Subcommittee and was FLT’s board secretary for the last few years. A resident of downtown Sarasota, Andrea was the dynamic force for a multitude of extension advocacy efforts, such as the development of the unique extension logo, creation of FLT referendum literature, speaking to government officials and individuals, doing radio interviews, giving presentations, and getting FLT info table space at Sarasota Farmers Market. All summer, she marshalled board members and volunteers to work together to get the referendum passed. Andrea has stepped away from FLT leadership to take care of other life priorities. Andrea, THANK YOU; we’ll see you on the trail.

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.