TBARTA gathers MPOs and the public to build support For the Gulf Coast Trail

by Roger Normand

TBARTA (Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority) held a regional trail summit in Venice on 23 January 2017 to further develop plans for the Gulf Coast Trail, formerly known as the South West Coastal Trail. This off-road, non-motorized multi-use trail stretches 250 miles from St. Petersburg to Naples, and includes the Legacy Trail and Venetian Waterway Park. It is one of 22 regional trails across the state recognized by the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails, and eligible for some of the $25 million per year provided under the Florida SUN (shared use non motorized) Trail program.

The Gulf Coast Trail Plan

About 175 attended, including County Commissioners, other elected officials, transportation planners, trail advocates like the Friends of the Legacy Trail, and the general public. We listened to trail building efforts from each of the seven MPOs (Metropolitan Planning Offices charged with coordinating all transportation issues within their jurisdiction and with adjacent MPOs) that have portions of the Gulf Coast Trail. There were several strong presentations, including local efforts explained by Sarasota County Bike/Ped Coordinator Patrick Lui…….and plenty of opportunities for improvement like that of Manatee County, whose trail plan has not been updated since 2002, has no bike/ped coordinator, no citizen advocacy group to promote trails, and no funding for trail planning or development.  Click here to see the presentation slides.

The primary purpose of the summit was to develop the Gulf Coast Trail name, share trail building efforts, update trail map corridors, and create an alliance of partners with shared goals across the eight counties to be in a better position to complete for future SUN Trail funds. Past readers of this newsletter will recall the unsuccessful efforts last year to compete for Tier 2 and Tier 3 SUN Trail funds on behalf of the Legacy Trail. This conference was an opportunity to be better prepared for the next cycle of SUN Trail fund at the end of this year.