Friends of Legacy Trail presents $250,000 donation to County Commission for work on Legacy Trail

Final segment of North Extension set to open March 3

(From left) Nicole Rissler, director of the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department; Louis Kosiba, president of Friends of the Legacy Trail (FLT) and FLT board members Janine Jacobs, Michelle Stanley, Rita Miotti, Carla Martin and Steve Martin appear with the $250,000 check from the nonprofit. Image courtesy Friends of the Legacy Trail.

The Friends of the Legacy Trail has given Sarasota County $250,000 for continued work on The Legacy Trail, including the stretch from Palmer Ranch to downtown Sarasota.

Louis Kosiba, president of the Friends organization, and other representatives of the nonprofit presented an oversize check to the County Commission and Nicole Rissler, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR) during the commission’s regular meeting on Jan. 25.

Kosiba expressed the Friends’ appreciation for pursuing the November 2018 referendum, during which about 70% of the voters approved the county’s issuing $65 million in bonds for the North Extension and for a formal North Port Connector of the Trail from Venice.

Kosiba noted that county staff has been “fast-tracking the Extension into Payne Park,” which is located near the intersection of School Avenue and Ringling Boulevard in downtown Sarasota. “It’s been very quick,” he added, referring to the upcoming completion of the three segments heading north from the original terminus of the Trail, at Culverhouse Nature Park on Palmer Ranch.

Then, holding the oversize check, Kosiba explained that $200,000 was from the Friends’ membership, with the remaining money coming from Dr. Herbert Silverstein, who donated it for use for the construction of a rest stop shelter along what will be a nearly 30-mile-long route from North Port to downtown Sarasota.

“Spend it well,” Kosiba told Rissler.

“A lot of this,” Rissler replied, will go toward the creation of a bifurcated Trail in places where the county has the additional space.

This graphic shows the design of the North Extension in an area between two homes. Extra shoulder space in certain places will be improved and designated for pedestrians, county staff says. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The county has applied for a grant that would facilitate that initiative, she noted.

Before construction began on the North Extension, Rissler explained during a county workshop that, after completion of the three segments of that part of the Trail, staff hoped to start work on an adjacent path in some sections, so walkers and runners could be separated from bicyclists.

During the Jan. 25 presentation, she noted that, adding, that that would “help increase safety” and allow for even greater use of the Trail.

On its website, the Friends of the Legacy Trail points out that $100,000 of its donation to the county came from the Square Foot Campaign that the nonprofit launched in December 2017. That project enabled individuals to fund specific square feet of the North Extension. Donations levels ranged from $20 for 1 square foot up to $1,000 for 5 square feet. Every contributor receives a personalized certificate of appreciation with the GPS location of the segment he or she has purchased.

The Friends of the Legacy Trail website explains the Square Foot Campaign. Image from the Friends website

The Friends made it clear that 100% of the proceeds would be used to help pay for the construction of the North Extension and its amenities.

As shown on Feb. 3 on the Friends’ website pages devoted to the Square Foot Campaign, 815 donations have added up to $108,615. Two couples have contributed $5,000, the list notes, while a number of others have given $1,000 each, and even more have provided $200 each.

Final North Extension segment expected to open March 3

This is one of the new bridges over Phillippi Creek on the segment between Bahia Vista Street and Payne Park, adjacent to a railroad trestle. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In other Trail news, county staff announced in a Jan. 26 video update that the final North Extension segment — from Bahia Vista Street to Payne Park — is expected to open on March 3.

Planning is underway, staff indicated, for a ceremony at the park.

At the same time, the new Sarasota Springs Trailhead on Webber Street, just south of the Trail section from Webber to Bahia Vista, also will open on March 3, Jon Robinson, manager of PRNR’s Natural Trails Division, reported.

During the video update, Robinson and Megan Eidel, manager of trails for the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, talked at the site of a new bridge over Phillippi Creek, along Segment 3. It is one of the two longer bridges over that water body that was prefabricated and then installed by cranes, Robinson explained.

“Those bridges were probably the biggest scheduling factor in the entire [North] Extension,” Robinson pointed out.

A trestle bridge that was part of the CSX railroad corridor is adjacent to the new Trail bridge that Robinson was discussing.

Eidel noted that a “stop station” next to the bridge — a rest stop with a shelter for Trail users — will include a kiosk with history about the rail corridor and the Trail. People who take a break at that location, she added, will be able to enjoy a view of the creek while they learn history of the project.

A kiosk at this rest shelter on the segment from Bahia Vista to downtown Sarasota will offer history about the Legacy Trail project and the former railroad corridor. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The last of the paving work and landscaping remains to be completed before the grand opening of Segment 3, Robinson also pointed out.

The third planned trailhead — on Pompano Avenue — is scheduled to open this summer, he said. It will include lighted pickleball courts, a bicycle safety course and a community meeting room, county staff has noted.

Then Robinson pointed out that the longest bridge that will be part of the North Port Connector will take Trail users to East Price Boulevard. “That bridge is still being prefabricated,” he said.

That segment is an especially important element of the connector, Eidel said, as it will facilitate North Port residents’ use of the route, all the way to downtown Sarasota, if they like.

Further, Robinson explained that a bridge will be put in place over Deer Prairie Creek, in the southern area of the county’s Deer Prairie Creek Preserve. That will be part of a natural surface connection between North Port and Venice, he noted, and it will be closer to the Wellen Park community. That section is expected to open this fall.

Finally, Robinson noted again that the Florida Department of Transportation is in the design and engineering phase of the two Trail overpasses it will construct at Clark Road and Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota. Those are planned to be completed in 2024, he added.