Effort to eliminate encroachments from North Extension of Legacy Trail continues as contractor works on Segment 1 from Proctor Road to Bahia Vista Street

County staff seeking voluntary cooperation for removal of fences, sheds and other structures on former railway corridor

Work continues on Segment 1 of the North Extension of The Legacy Trail. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The preliminary clearing of the right of way for the North Extension of The Legacy Trail is scheduled to be completed this week from Bahia Vista Street south, past Sawyer Loop Road, Sarasota County staff has reported.

The operation then will move toward Culverhouse Nature Park on Palmer Ranch, which has been the terminus of the Trail in North County.

“Construction-related traffic should be expected on Webber Street, Gypsy Lane and Ashton Road as the Contractor prepares land for the project staging and layout,” the county’s Construction — One Week Look Ahead report for Aug. 24 pointed out.

The contractor is AECOM Technical Services Inc. of Venice. Jon F. Swift Construction of Sarasota is the firm providing oversight services.

The work underway is necessary for completion of the Phase 1 segment from Proctor Road to Bahia Vista Street, with ground having been broken on July 9.

An aerial map shows the location of Culverhouse Nature Park, south of Sawyer Loop Road. Image from Google Maps

In conjunction with the process, Nicole Rissler, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, pointed out in an Aug. 18 video update that efforts continue to ensure the removal of all encroachments on the Trail’s right of way, which is former CSX Transportation railway corridor.

Staff began working nine months ago, she noted, to ask property owners to eliminate those encroachments, among which are fences, sheds, sprinkler heads and wells. Three sets of certified letters have been mailed and two door hangers have been used to convey the information to the affected persons, she added.

Of the approximately 200 encroachments, Rissler pointed out, “Ninety percent of them are fences. … Many [people probably] didn’t even know where [the railway right of way] is, so we’ve spent nine months educating them.”

A fence is shown adjacent to The Legacy Trail corridor. Image courtesy Sarasota County

(A county webpage says the total number of encroachments is 236, with more than one on some parcels; 170 of them are fences. Eighty-nine of the encroachments are within the city of Sarasota, the webpage adds. After fences, the webpage notes, the next highest figure is for sheds: 27; followed by “concrete surfaces”: 14. Among the others are two satellite dishes; one deck; six “portions of asphalt driveways/parking lots”; and three electrical boxes.)

The certified letters went to the addresses of the residences with the encroachments, as well as to the property owners identified, Rissler said.

Staff members also have knocked on doors, she continued, and they have tagged encroachments, when they could get to them. The goal, she stressed, has been voluntary compliance.

Last fall, the County Commission gave staff the formal approval for the effort.

“We’ll continue to work on construction,” Rissler said in the video. The contracts for Segments 2 and 3 still are expected to be presented to the County Commission this fall, she added, with the surface sections of the North Extension and the North Port connector on target for completion by the end of 2022.

A graphic shows the segments for the North Extension. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The county webpage devoted to the undertaking says staff plans to have the contract amendments for the other two segments, plus trailheads on Webber Street and Ashton Street, on the commission’s Sept. 9 agenda. “Design work is ongoing for both the North Port Connector and the Pompano Avenue Trailhead,” the page adds.

The Pompano Avenue Trailhead will be adjacent to the Sarasota County Fairgrounds, off Fruitville Road.

The county webpage also notes, “It is anticipated that all segments may be under construction concurrently.”

As work is completed in specific areas, Rissler said in the video, it is possible those segments will be opened earlier.

The major overpasses for The Legacy Trail at Bee Ridge Road and Clark Road will be constructed by the Florida Department of Transportation, she and commissioners have made clear in the past.

The North Extension will end at Payne Park in downtown Sarasota, Rissler reminded viewers. However, thanks to the construction of Multi-Use Recreational Trails (MURT) and other pathways, users of The Legacy Trail will be able to go all the way to Longboat Key.

A May 2019 graphic shows the proposed layout for the Pompano Trailhead at that time, with pickleball courts and parking spaces, as well as the former driver’s license facility. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Rissler also took the opportunity in the video to remind viewers that more than 70% of county voters approved $37 million in bonds during the November 2018 General Election to purchase the rail corridor and then pay for the North Extension and North Port connector for The Legacy Trail. The Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices property owners have received this month show the millage allocated to the project.

The completed, 30-mile, continuous Legacy Trail, Rissler added in the video, will be a “really cool legacy project” and an “amenity that makes our community world-class.”