Category Archives: Trail News

FLT Organizes Commissioner Tours of the North Port Connector Route Alternatives

by Roger Normand

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 alternatives include:

  • 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 Deer Prairie Creek Preserve. From left to right: North Port Commissioner Jill Luke, Sarasota County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Director Nicole Rissler, Friends of The Legacy Trail Board Director Roger Normand, and Sarasota County Commissioner Charles Hines.

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. 

On the Carlton Reserve South Power Line Trail. From left to right: Sarasota County Natural Areas and Trails Division Manager Jon Robinson, Sarasota County Commissioner Christian Ziegler, North Port Vice Mayor Debbie McDowell, Friends of the Legacy Trail Board Director Roger Normand, Friends of the Legacy Trail North Port Coordinator Sharon Donovan.

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.

Trail Extension News – June 2019

by Roger Normand

Looking North to Downtown Sarasota

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.

Trail Extension Project Expedited!

by Steve Martin

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.

Note: You may sign up to receive extension updates by email from the county on this page.
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2019 Tour de Parks shatters previous record participation

by Roger Normand

They gathered in the predawn Florida cold (60 degrees Fahrenheit) darkness at the Historic Venice Train Depot.   Vehicles guided by volunteers to designated parking areas.   Bicycles dismounted from their carrier.  Final ABC safety check: “A” for Air in tires, OK; “B” for Brakes, OK. “C” for Cranks and Chains, OK.  A quick healthy bit of fuel consisting of yogurt, muffins, fruit, OJ and coffee graciously provided by sponsor First Watch restaurant.  A final potty call.

Event Director Bud Gaunce called out “Ride safely, ride courteously, and enjoy the ride.”

And as the sun peaked over the horizon, bringing the light and warmth of day, the first wave of 62 milers on the 2019 Tour de Parks launched north on the Legacy Trail.  The 35 and 21 milers followed later in the morn.

950 riders signed up for the event, shattering last’s year’s record of 750!  It all went very smoothly, thanks to detailed planning efforts and dedicated volunteers before, during, and cleanup after the ride.

True to its name, riders traversed parks along the Legacy Trail, venturing to Urfer, Rothenbach Parks.  Rowers could be seen honing their skills as riders circled Benderson Park, site of international rowing competitions. Ocean vistas and dream homes line the newly paved route along Casey Key.

The Tour de Parks is a key fund raising event by both the Friends of the Legacy Trail and the Sarasota-Manatee Bicycle Club.  About 100 volunteers help support the ride, along with area bicycle shops providing SAG support for mechanical issues.  This year’s ride, like most previous year’s, was graced with light winds, low humidity, mostly blue sky, near perfect low 80s temperature.  Perfect for hesitant riders trying their first cycling event, to seasoned cyclist using this as a first of the season’s long distance rides.  A hearty lunch provided by Mattison’s greeted those at the finish line.

Thanks to all who participated.  And a special thanks to all the FLT and SMBC volunteers who make this event possible.  See more FLT and SMBC volunteer opportunities.

New South Creek Stop Station and Learning Area

by Darryl Lang

“The South Creek Stop Station and Learning Area” is being created at South Creek adjacent to Oscar Scherer State Park. Funding from the Jelks Family Foundation and Friends of The Legacy Trail is making this project possible.   The area will include a bench, bike rack, kiosk, viewing area for the historic railroad trestle, various Florida native trees and plants and an official Sarasota County historical marker explaining the significance of the railroad to our community. Trail users will be able to view the historic railroad trestle, learn about Florida native plants and relax in a natural, enjoyable setting.

Phil Smith, Darryl Lang, and Kate Johnston

Phil Smith, State Licensed Landscape Architect, and Kate Johnston, Landscape Designer, from DWJA Landscape Architects have donated their time and expertise to create a site and construction plan. Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources staff have also been working on the design. Friends of The Legacy Trail will be managing the project. Darryl Lang, FLT Board Member, has worked tirelessly to get this project accomplished.  Construction should begin in a few months.

Click to Enlarge
Current View of the Site

Trail Updates – February 2019

WHAT’S HAPPENING ON THE TRAIL?
by Megan Eidel, County Trails Coordinator

It’s busy season, and it’s important to follow basic rules and etiquette on the trail. Remember, The Legacy Trail is a multi-use trail. We have cyclists, walkers, roller bladers, parents with strollers, dog walkers and more!

Here are a few of The Legacy Trail’s etiquette policies and rules:

  • Cyclists, always slow down and announce in a loud voice “On your left” before passing other cyclists or pedestrians.
  • The speed limit on the trail is 15 mph. This includes the pedestrian overpasses.
  • Always stop and use crossing signals at road intersections.
  • Cyclists under 16 must wear a helmet.

Together, we can create a safe and enjoyable experience for ALL Legacy Trail users.

Join our Speakers Bureau

The Friends of The Legacy Trail Speakers Bureau is looking for individuals who are comfortable presenting to a wide variety of groups to spread the word and excitement about The Legacy Trail.  Our Speakers Bureau was a very big part of our work to promote the Legacy Trail Extension Referendum by informing Sarasota County Voters about the important facts related to the project.  Although the Referendum has successfully passed, we continue to receive requests from community and neighborhood groups, service and business organizations, etc., to provide speakers to inform their membership about the trail. 

We have an important story to tell about our history as well as the ever-changing plans for the newly approved extension and possible connections to the trail.  Keeping the public informed as we move forward is very important to our mission and helps us honor the support the voters have shown for The Legacy Trail. We have developed a Power Point presentation that helps tell our story and we will provide the equipment and materials for these events. 

Sound interesting?  Need a little more information?  Let us know!  Contact us here. We will work with you to become familiar with the materials and make sure you have all the information you need.

Tour de Parks Bicycle Ride

by Michelle Stanley

Join us on Sunday, March 24, 2019 for the annual Tour de Parks Bike event. The ride features distances of 21, 35 and 62 miles, going through 12 scenic parks in Sarasota County. You may get more information and register now from here, or or go directly to Active.com. You can pay online, or download a form and mail it in. The ride will once again have a wonderful breakfast catered by First Watch, snacks at rest stations sponsored by Doctors Hospital and Lunch by Mattison’s. All this and a t-shirt (for the first 650 riders –size restrictions available on line) for $40 (plus Active fee). The prices go up starting February 28, so register early. The ride will begin at the historic Venice Train station. The ride will be held rain or shine.

Final Routes are still being confirmed and will be posted on our website. There will be packet pick-up prior to the event at Real Bikes, Bikes International and Sarasota Bikes. Details will be sent prior to the ride and posted at the link above. Last year we had close to 800 riders. We will have a Bespoke Jersey for sale and will have that information available on the website once the design is complete. If you would like to sponsor a mile marker or see other sponsorship opportunities, please contact Michelle Stanley.

Info Tables to Begin Again Soon!!

by Rita Miotti

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.

From the President’s Corner – February 2019

by Roger Normand

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!


Miles likes the new water fountain.

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.