It is incredibly exciting to see the transformation of an abandoned rail corridor into the extension of the Legacy Trail. These recent photos taken at trail end by Culverhouse Nature Park show the contractor has stripped the overgrown vegetation within the construction footprint, and redefined the shape, depth and pitch of the drainage ditch of both sides of the rail bed. Then this huge, articulated mulcher makes quick work of shredding the vegetation in place.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the start of construction of the north Legacy Trail Extension is scheduled for this Thursday July 9 at 10:30 a.m. Attendance at the event is restricted due to Covid-19 concerns, however, everyone can watch via a live event on the Sarasota County Facebook page.
At this time, our community is encouraged to stay close to home and limit their interactions. During these challenging times, we understand the need to get outside, soak up some fresh air and get exercise. When enjoying The Legacy Trail, there are several actions you can take to keep yourself and others safe:
Follow the CDC’s minimum recommended social distancing of 6 feet.
Keep single-file when walking or biking
If there are people at a stop station, keep going
If the trailhead looks busy, come another time
Bring your own water so you don’t have to use drinking fountains
Practice “pack it in, pack it out” so you don’t have to use the trash receptacles
Bring hand wipes or sanitizer
And finally, be smart, stay safe and don’t travel far from home. Our hospitals, resources and emergency services are being utilized in other capacities. It’s important to keep yourself safe while recreating.
Sarasota County is closely monitoring the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources (PRNR) is in regular communication with the county Health Department and continues to receive updates related to its operations. Things are changing daily, so for the latest information on COVID-19 in Sarasota County, please visit scgov.net/COVID.
After discussion with management of Sarasota County Parks, FLT has purchased and donated to the county a Stand-On Debris Blower for use on The Trail. Mowing & storms cause The Trail to be littered with debris. This will help to make the trail safer and also help to prevent flat tires.
Check out this video to see this amazing machine in action!
A celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony were held on Friday November 15 to mark the official opening. We hope all trail users will enjoy this new trail amenity sponsored by the Jelks Foundation and Friends of The Legacy Trail. See map here for location.
On your mark…get set…GO! Officials from Sarasota County, City of Sarasota, City of North Port, and other honored guests kicked off the “Race to Completion” of the Legacy Trail with food, speeches and interactive exhibits.
This special event marked the County’s acquisition of the right of way for the Trail extension from the Culverhouse Nature Center, just south of Clark Road, north up to Fruitville Road. Attendees enjoyed a lovely summer morning in Payne Park while receiving the latest information on the property acquisition as well as construction plans.
Sarasota County Commission Chair Charles Hines told the assembled crowd that “the Trail offers a chance to commune with nature, it builds a sense of community, and it honors the rich history of our County… that’s why we voters overwhelmingly approved the bond referendum. It showed us … that [the Trail] is just as important to our community as anything else…It is paramount to our Board to get this project up and running as quickly as possible.”
Sarasota County Director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Director Nicole Rissler added that “Since the passing of the referendum, Sarasota County staff have worked tirelessly – and I really mean tirelessly – to bring the Legacy Trail extension to life…when complete, the extension will create nearly 30 miles of continuous, non-motorized, paved, multi-use trail enhancing connectivity from North Port through Venice to downtown Sarasota and include improvements such as crossings and overpasses at Clark Road and at Bee Ridge, amenities, and increased accessibility.”
Friends of Legacy Trail (FLT) has played an integral part in this process, and we participated in the “Race To Completion” kickoff by sharing information and handouts with attendees. FLT President Louis Kosiba noted that “this is a great day for the Legacy Trail. The County has now acquired the land we need for the extension into downtown Sarasota, and it won’t be too long before Trail users can travel directly from North Port through the Venice Train Depot to Payne Park. Our early vision from way back in 2008 is growing clearer and closer to reality.”
Friends of the Legacy Trail sponsored two tours in May for Sarasota County and City of North Port commissioners to view and experience two alternative routes from the Legacy Trail in Venice to North Port.
As part of the passage
of the referendum, $2 million will be put toward a connector route. Both routes
currently being considered rejoin at the eastern end of Border Road. The
Entering the T. Mabry Carlton Jr. Memorial Reserve and enhancing the existing nine-mile packed-surface South Power Line Trail to Myakkahatchee Creek Environmental Park in North Port.
Continuing along the lightly used paved South Moon Drive and Forbes Trail into Deer Prairie Creek Preserve and Schewe Ranch and creating a new three-mile paved or packed-surface trail to West Price Boulevard in North Port.
While the County has made commendable progress to prepare the bonding documents to secure funding and develop its plans and requirements for design and engineering support to extend the Legacy Trail to Sarasota, progress on route selection for the North Port connection has not been as proactive. For example, there has been no effort to develop a cost analysis on the routes.
In organizing the tour, FLT wanted to bring visibility to and promote dialog on the unique opportunities and challenges with both routes. FLT created an objective list of the pros and cons of each route, which were presented to the commissioners for consideration during the tour. We invited all County and City commissioners, and four participated: County Commissioner Charles Hines rode with City Commissioner Jill Luke on the first tour, while County Commissioner Christian Ziegler rode with North Port Vice Mayor Debbie McDowell on the second tour. We worked with County staff to arrange for the necessary four-wheel-drive vehicle for the rough terrain, and coordinated with park managers from the Carlton Reserve and Deer Prairie Creek Preserve who drove the vehicles and provided valuable insights on park conditions.
Everyone was grateful for the opportunity to get an on-the-ground perspective. Vice Mayor McDowell perhaps said it best: “I am so glad I took the tour…. Seeing the trail path, in person, gave me a unique perspective compared to just a line on a map. THANK YOU.”
FLT will soon be providing the County and City with our recommendations. The County and City will ultimately make the decision, based on costs, environmental impacts, feasibility, and a number of other factors, and there will be public comment periods to inform the communities of their plans. As always, FLT welcomes input from our members and we are in need of volunteers in North Port who can help us enhance and support the connector route. Either one of the routes will provide a beautiful natural experience for cyclists and others.
We are on the cusp of realizing a remarkable milestone to extend the Legacy Trail to downtown Sarasota. Suddenly, unbelievably, our vision for a paved, multiuse path along the abandoned, unsightly rail corridor that stretches from Culverhouse Nature Park to Payne Park and Fruitville will, by the end of this month, become County property. That’s a critical precursor to proceeding with the design and engineering of the trail extension. Our six year quest, capped by the astounding support of 71 percent of County voters during the November 2018 referendum to extend the Legacy Trail IS REALLY HAPPENING!
Much has been going on behind the scenes to proceed with the purchase:
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Sarasota County completed their due diligence review (environmental assessment, title search, boundary survey, leases and encroachment issues). All concerns were resolved satisfactorily.
The County completed its competitive solicitation process and selected Kimley-Horne and Associates for design and engineering support for the extension. The County is now finalizing the scope of work, which will include cost analysis and design for the North Port connection. The contract is expected to be submitted to the County Commissioners by July 10 for approval.
On June 4, the County will be selling $37 million in general obligation bonds (of the $65 million authorized in the referendum) to purchase the rail corridor and pay for initial design and engineering of the trail extension. It also includes $2 million for the North Port connection. Contact your financial institution if you’d like to hold some of these bonds in your portfolio!
The County and Florida Department of Transportation have agreed to realign $8.5 million in FL SUN Trail funds provided for the extension to Ashton Road. FDOT will retain the funds and now be responsible for the design, bidding and construction of both the Bee Ridge and Clark Road overpasses. This resolves a timing issue (the SUN funds were programmed in 2022/2023), and allows the County to proceed with the immediate design and accelerated construction of the flat trail. The design and construction of the Clark Road trail overpass is particularly complicated: FDOT plans to simultaneously straighten the McIntosh Road intersection so the overpass carries trail uses across both Clark and McIntosh Roads.
We can expect TPL and the County to close on the purchase from CSX ~ June 25, with a public event celebrating the milestone a few days later. We plan to mobilize our FLT member “yellow shirt brigade” at the event. We will issue an email blast once the County finalizes the timing and location.
Trail supporters, June will truly be a remarkable month.
Thanks to very diligent work by the county commissioners, county staff, and FDOT, the projected schedule for the northern extension has been considerably expedited. It is now estimated that the ground level trail (excluding highway overpasses) will be completed in 2022! (The previous estimate for completion, including overpasses, was December 2024.)
Change of plans:FDOT will now pay for and build the overpasses for Clark and Bee Ridge Roads.
Previous Plan: FDOT was to give the county $1M for the Clark Road overpass design, and $7.5M in fiscal year 2022-2023 to help with construction of the Phase 1 part of the trail (current northern terminus to Ashton Rd). This meant that Phase 1 construction could not be started until 2023.
The New Plan: Instead of giving the above $8.5M to the county, FDOT will pay for the design and construction of the overpasses over Clark and Bee Ridge roads. The county will now pay for all construction of the ground level trail. This removes the restriction on when Phase 1 construction can begin. There are several segments to the extension that have been identified and the order in which the segments will be completed will be addressed by the design firm. FDOT does not have a schedule for completing the overpasses at this time.
The county has received approval from the Federal Surface Transportation Board to use the rail corridor as a trail.
The county expects to sign a contract with Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. for design of the trail, which will include a study of the cost of routes to North Port, by June 5.
It is anticipated that the county will close on the purchase of rail corridor on or before June 30th.
In conducting its due diligence, the Trust for Public Land and the County have discovered numerous encroachments into the rail corridor by adjacent residential property owners.
The Board of County Commissioners (BCC) on April 23rd unanimously approved extending the diligence phase from April 30 to May 21. This may similarly delay, but not jeopardize, the 30 May settlement date to acquire the rail corridor from Ashton Road to Fruitville Road.
The BCC previously had unanimously approved proceeding to issue up to $37 million in County general obligation bonds, and adopt internal management actions to acquire and manage the extension project.