Friends of The Legacy Trail inks agreement with county to work on fundraising for the North Extension

Naming rights and sponsorships to be pursued

A March graphic shows facets of the North Extension project for The Legacy Trail. Image courtesy Sarasota County

As Sarasota County staff continues to work on acquiring the property for the North Extension of The Legacy Trail, the County Commission has approved an agreement that will enable a nonprofit organization to raise funds for the project through naming rights and sponsorships.

Thanks to a unanimous commission vote on July 11, the Friends of the Legacy Trail will work with the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR) on that endeavor.

In late March, the commission freed up about $8.6 million to help pay for the 7.5 miles necessary to extend The Legacy Trail from Culverhouse Park on Palmer Ranch to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota. The purchase of CSX railroad right of way and the necessary construction has been estimated between $56 million and $60 million, staff told the board this spring.

The Trust for Public Land has negotiated a deal with the railroad company to buy the land and then sell it to the county, staff explained in February. In accord with that, the commission on Feb. 15 agreed to a plan calling for the county to purchase the property from the Trust in two segments. The approximately $20-million payment for the first — from Clark Road to Bahia Vista Street — was due by the end of this year, staff said in March. The land for the second phase — from Bahia Vista to Fruitville Road — would cost about $18 million, and that would have to be paid by March 2019, staff noted.

In response to a Sarasota News Leader request for any update on the deal with the Trust, county Media Relations Officer Jason Bartolone wrote in an Aug. 10 email that during the Aug. 29 County Commission meeting, staff is scheduled to ask the board to consider two agreements regarding the acquisition of additional rail corridor:

  • “The first agreement acquires railway from Culverhouse Park and extends to Ashton Road. The land acquisition price is $7.9 million. We are estimating $100,000 in costs associated with the closing. If approved by the board, the closing is scheduled for December 2017.
  • “The second agreement is conditioned upon the passage of a bond referendum to be held in November 2018. If the referendum passes, the county would purchase the railway from Ashton Road [to] Fruitville Road. The purchase price is $30.1 million.”

The nonprofit Friends of The Legacy Trail was created in 2006 as an entity within the Friends of Sarasota County Parks; however, it was split off from that county organization in June 2016 because of its success and growth, according to a memo provided to the commission in advance of its July 2011 meeting. The primary mission of the Friends of The Legacy Trail is “to support, promote, enhance and protect [The Legacy Trail], now and for future generations,” the agreement says.

That agreement gives the nonprofit the right to engage in fundraising activities involving individuals, government entities, other nonprofits, foundations and businesses “through grants, sponsorships, advertising of major sponsors, donations, etc.”

The agreement points out, “Naming of County-owned property and facilities is a legislative function of the Board of County Commissioners, and it is solely within the Board’s discretion to determine the appropriate name for County-owned property and facilities.” However, the agreement adds, the Friends group will work with the PRNR staff on naming initiatives.

The CSX railroad line between Tuttle and Shade avenues is part of the planned North Extension of The Legacy Trail. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The memo provided to the County Commission also explains, “Sponsorship values of both cash and non-cash donations from a third party will be subject to the following conditions:”

  • If the amount is $10,000 or less, no PRNR approval is necessary.
  • If the amount is above $10,000 but less than $50,000, the donation will just need approval from individuals authorized to act on behalf of the PRNR Department and the nonprofit.
  • If it is above $50,000 but below $100,000, “the donation will be subject to approval by the County Administrator.”
  • If the amount exceeds $100,000, it will need the approval of the County Commission.

The agreement calls for all sponsorships to “promote a family friendly image/environment.”

A section titled Prohibited Industries and Products lists, among others, adult nightclub sponsors; religious and political organizations; “Companies whose revenues are substantially derived from the sale of tobacco, firearms or pornography;” and those industries that promote gambling, pari-mutuel betting or games of chance.

The Friends of The Legacy Trail also is entitled to retain up to 20% of the funds it raises “to offset reasonable expenses of the organization,” the memo notes.

A fact sheet includes these maps of The Legacy Trail. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Further, the agreement calls for the Friends of The Legacy Trail, in cooperation with PRNR staff, to develop a fundraising plan with estimated project costs and specific goals, which PRNR staff must approve. The document notes that the projects typically will entail physical improvements to The Legacy Trail, but other programs supporting the Trail are feasible.

If other fundraising opportunities arise during a fiscal year after the plan has been completed, representatives of the Friends of The Legacy Trail must gain PRNR approval of them, the agreement adds.

On July 12 — the day after the County Commission approved the agreement — Bruce Dillon, vice president of the Friends of The Legacy Trail, told the board members during the Open to the Public comment period that the nonprofit still had not developed a system to allow donations to be made through its website.

However, he pointed out, after the commission on April 1, 2015 made clear its commitment to acquiring the property for the North Extension, the organization let it be known that donations would be welcome. “A day-and-a-half later,” Dillon said, “there was 6,000 bucks in the kitty. … It’s time to be thinking about the individual contributions and things like that that the residents can make, and we’ll happily accept them.”