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 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.