by Roger Normand
The hope of thousands of supporters to extend the Legacy Trail to downtown Sarasota has just taken a giant leap forward. FLT has learned CSX Corporation, owner of the rail corridor, and their lessee Seminole Gulf Railroad (SGR), have now signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to sell the corridor to the Trust for Public Land (TPL) who would then transfer title to Sarasota County.
It has been a long, tortuous haul for trail advocates since the County Commissioners met in April 2015 to review the Feasibility Study on the extension and directed county staff to begin discussions to acquire the corridor from CSX. The Florida Department of Transportation intervened shortly afterwards with their own thoughts to acquire the corridor along with others across the state. It remains unclear what that accomplished, other than consuming some 9 months before FDOT relinquished their interest back to Sarasota County in February 2016.
Since then, TPL resumed negotiating the terms and conditions for the sale of the 7.7-mile, 100-foot wide corridor that spans from Culverhouse Nature Park near Clark Road to Payne Park in the heart of the city of Sarasota. The appraisal of the corridor was completed in October 2016. FLT has learned that the parties are now working to finalize the contract terms and conditions.
The LOI will not be available to the public. We will have to wait for those pesky (!) details like the selling price and other terms in the proposed contract. Once completed, we expect a public meeting of the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) in mid-February to discuss the sale offer, and decide how best to proceed, particularly concerning County funding options. Stay tuned for further details, including the date of the BCC. We hope to see as many trail supporters wearing their yellow Extend the Legacy shirts as possible at the BCC. We will let you, our dedicated trail supporters, know immediately through all our media outlets as soon as possible.
In the meantime. let’s all celebrate this major milestone. The LOI represents a willingness by CSX and SGR to sell the corridor at a negotiated price. That’s really big news. All aboard the Legacy Trail Extension. Next stop: the BCC!