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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.

Make Contributions to FLT with Amazon Smile!

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 charitable organization.)
It’s easy-start shopping! Select Friends of The Legacy Trail!!

Thanks to Joan Attenberg for setting this up for us!

FLT Donates Trail Counter to County

by Steve Martin

Friends of The Legacy Trail has donated a new, more accurate, trail counter to the County Parks Department to monitor traffic on The Legacy Trail.  Pictured, Jon Robinson, Division Manager, Natural Area Parks, Preserves and Trails (left), receives the counter from John League, President, Friends of The Legacy Trail (right).

FLT has performed two surveys in the past year to evaluate trail usage and user characteristics.  The results of these surveys and analysis were recently used to increase the calculated trail usage from 120,000 to 175,000 users per year.  Another finding from these surveys was that the currently-used trail counters are significantly under-counting trail usage.  An investigation of alternative counting devices and technology led to the selection of the more accurate Eco-Counter device donated by FLT to the county.

Having accurate data to demonstrate the popularity of The Legacy Trail is very important in seeking financial support for the trail and the trail extension to Sarasota.  This activity is currently being performed by both the County Parks Department (Thanks Megan!) and members of FLT.    In the trail business the saying is “If we don’t count, we don’t get counted.”

175,000 Strong

by Roger Normand

Counter Data for 681 Overpass and Hatchett Creek

Are you one of the estimated 175,000 annual users of the Legacy Trail?  Probably so, if you are reading this.  Great news!  There were 55,000 more of you on the Legacy Trail in 2016 than the 120,000 reported in each of the last few years.  Many of you have asked us why the number of trail users has seemed to, well, stagnate when it appears there is a growing number of people enjoying the trail.

We wondered about that also, which prompted us to do a year long deep dive study on the three TRAFx brand passive infrared counters used on the trail to gather raw data, and the algorithm used to convert the raw data to an annual users count.  FLT purchased and installed the counters in 2012.

In short we combined online and on-the-trail surveys of the type of users (e.g., cyclist, runners, walkers), the most frequent entry points to the trail, the typical distance traveled (length of trip, and whether it was one-way or round trip on the trail).  A FLT member with considerable professional statistical experience was unable to find a suitable mathematical model, so he developed one.  Warning, the math is not for the faint of heart!  We also calibrated the counter data with actual observations, noting that closely spaced users were not being properly recorded by the counters.  As recommended by the TRAFx counter manufacturer, we applied an adjustment factor to the counter data.  Click here to see the FLT letter to the County Commissioners and supporting details.

While it is great news to recognize the much higher number of annual users of the Legacy Trail, the 175,000 annual user estimate remains very conservative.  Anecdotal evidence suggests the passive infrared counters may also be unable to accurately distinguish a human with a body temperature of 98.6 degrees passing up to ten feet away when the ambient temperature here in Sarasota is often in the 80s and 90s.  We will continue to examine this issue.

In the meantime, enjoy the trail knowing that you are one of 175,000 annual users.  This higher user count adds considerable support to efforts to extend the trail to downtown Sarasota.

Want to Get Involved

Our Volunteer activities are FUN!! (and may lead to extra exercise!)

February Volunteer Needs

  • Surrey Bike Ride Tour Pedalers – Wednesdays and Thursdays, 1 hour shifts between 8:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.
  • Surrey Bike Ride Greeters – Monday through Thursdays 1.5 hour shifts between 8:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.
  • OJT Trail Head Landscape Cleanup – Thursdays – 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.
  • Ambassador Patrol – Ongoing throughout the year – daylight hours – as available.
  • Information Table Events
    • Saturday – 8:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. @ Central Sarasota Pkwy
    • Sunday – 8:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. @ Venice Train Depot
    • One Saturday per month – Downtown Sarasota Farmers Mkt – February 18, 8 -10 a.m. or 10 a.m. – Noon
  • Logo Merchandise Coordinator – Ongoing throughout the year – flexible times.
  • Adopt a Kiosk – Ongoing throughout the year – flexible times.
  • Photographer – Attend events as available throughout the year.

For more information contact our Volunteer Coordinator Rita Miotti by clicking here.

It’s a Gator on The Trail!

by Roger Normand

Always be aware of your surroundings

There was nothing but blue sky, temps in the high seventies, light wind, and few other riders when I left for a late afternoon solo ride on the Legacy Trail.  It was easy to drift into deep contemplation while spinning easily.  Thankfully, my subconscious kicked in as my brain registered a unusual object ahead on the side of the trail at the 4.2 mile point of the Legacy Trail.
 
YIKES.  It’s a GATOR.  ONE BIG GATOR.  Just laying there on the shoulder, head tucked onto the trail.  I rode briskly by, ceding all the width of the trail possible, then stopped at what I hoped was a safe distance to take these pics.   I saw another cyclist approaching and flagged him to the far side and full stop.

gator-2-1038px

The gator never moved, seemingly in his own deep reverie.  I’ve seen gators sunning along the shore of storm water ponds visible from the trail, but this is the first time I’ve seen one ON THE TRAIL.  They are WAY bigger up close than when viewed from a distance!!!!!!
 
I called the Sheriff’s office and they said they’d immediately dispatch an officer and wildlife trapper.
 
Riding on the trail keeps you safe from cars, trucks and motorcycles.  Nonetheless, always be aware of your surroundings.  Wildlife can be dangerous and unpredictable if spooked.

I’m always amazed at what I see along the trail.  Today, that was especially true.

Nevertheless, this gator must be commended for demonstrating good trail etiquette:  when stopping, always stay to the side of the trail.

 

Bike Florida and The Best Volunteers Ever!

by Carla Martin

Last summer, Bike Florida offered us the opportunity to make $2100 to put to good use on the trail or towards the trail extension by offering us the opportunity to work some of the rest stops for their recent week-long “Surf and Turf” event April 9-15th here in the Sarasota Area.  The plan was for cyclists to start in Arcadia, ride to Sarasota, south to Venice, then Englewood, finally returning to Arcadia.

 Being optimistic, we chose to do 7 rest stops in 2 days.  Tuesday, April 12: Siesta Key Beach, Jungle Gardens, and Ken Thompson Park.  On Wednesday, April 13: Blackburn Point Park, Venice Trail Depot, Maxine Barrett Park and Manasota Beach.

 After only one email from Rita Miotti, Volunteer Coordinator, our wonderful volunteers answered our call and readily volunteered to work these positions.  There was not a single no show for the event!

 We started early in those mornings, lugging water and food, then had fun making PB&J sandwiches, cutting fruit and caring for enthusiastic cyclists until early afternoon.  Then packed it all up before heading home.  Rita reported that she received so many compliments on how helpful and friendly the volunteers were and the rest stop experience in general.

[envira-gallery id=”2690″]

Tuesday evening, Max Corley presented our Power Point Talk about The Legacy Trail to an audience of about 100 riders in Robarts Arena.  We also had an opportunity to have an info table during this event.  Another one was held at the Venice Depot next morning after riders had the opportunity to experience riding The Trail first hand.

 Along with having fun working together and chatting with cyclists, Bike Florida’s event provided our organization with a $2,100 donation as well as numerous new memberships and revenues from the sale of FLT logo items.  We collected 276 new petition signatures, almost all from out of town.  In addition, our involvement created incredible new excitement about The Legacy Trail!

 Many Thanks again to Rita Miotti and our Wonderful Volunteers!

Wanted: Business Member Liaison

by Carla Martin

Are you looking for a way to help Friends of the Legacy Trail as well as local businesses?

Do you have a favorite business (restaurant / shop / service) which you think could benefit from having an ad on the FLT website?

If so consider joining the FLT Marketing and Promotion Team as the Business Member Liaison.

In this role, you could ask your favorite business to become a Business Member of FLT. 

A Business Membership benefits both the business and FLT.   The business has a choice of 2 ways to do this:
1.   By being a paying member at $50 per year or
2.   For free by offering our members a discount on goods or services.

Either way the business gets advertising on our site and has their name in our newsletter in a small article welcoming them.  In addition, each month their name will appear a banner in our newsletter along with our other business members.

In addition, you would contact our current Business Members and ask if they are interested in continuing their membership for another year.

Here is what one local Business Member had to say about his recent membership: “Honestly that $50 to become a biz member with you paid for itself almost right away ;)”

If this appeals to you, please contact us here.

Thanks for considering this!

Carla Martin
Director
Marketing and Promotion
Friends of The Legacy Trail