County staff to plan big celebration after remainder of Segment 2 has been completed
With the sun finally coming out from behind Tropical Storm Elsa’s clouds, two representatives of Sarasota County Government departments officially opened Segment 1 of the North Extension of The Legacy Trail late on the morning of July 8.
Nicole Rissler, director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, and Donn Patchen, director of Communications, met near the Proctor Road end of that segment for a Facebook Live event shortly after 11 a.m. on July 8.
“I’m so excited, Donn!” Rissler said.
A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony had been planned on July 6, but concerns about Tropical Storm Elsa’s path necessitated the cancellation of that event, Rissler and Patchen pointed out.
Nonetheless, bicyclists and pedestrians are welcome on the stretch from Proctor Road to Bahia Vista Street, Rissler added. In fact, two people on bicycles rode past her and Patchen during the Facebook Live event.
“We actually were able to open slightly more than [Segment 1],” Rissler pointed out. “You can actually go south from Proctor Road and almost get to Ashton [Road]].”
Additionally, she said, the section north from Culverhouse Nature Park, on Palmer Ranch, to Sawyer Loop Road also is open. That is part of Segment 2. “We have a gap in between that we anticipate being done in the next month or so,” Rissler explained.
“Then we’ll have a true, official celebration [for Segments 1 and 2],” she added.
The Friends of the Legacy Trail, a nonprofit organization, noted the July 8 news on its website: “Since Friends of The Legacy Trail first proposed extending The Trail into downtown Sarasota in 2013, it has been a long, hard, campaign with many ups and downs along the way. The opening of Segment 1 represents a very significant milestone for our community and all who have supported and worked for the Extension.”
Work is proceeding on the new trailheads at 4012 Webber St. and 4301 Ashton Road, Rissler noted during the Facebook Live event. The final segment of the North Extension, between Bahia Vista Street and downtown Sarasota, near Payne Park, is scheduled to be completed in early 2022, she added.
A third new trailhead is planned at 601 S. Pompano Ave., adjacent to the Sarasota County Fairgrounds. It will feature a bicycle safety course, pickleball courts and a community meeting room, Rissler has noted during presentations to the County Commission.
Additionally, construction is proceeding on the North Port Connector; a groundbreaking for that segment was held on June 14. It will run parallel to Interstate 75 and then make a 90-degree turn as it heads south to West Price Boulevard.
On its website, the Friends of the Legacy Trail also pointed out that the county contractors “have begun trail improvements along the South Powerline Trail through Carlton Reserve and Big Slough Preserve,” for access between Venice and North Port. The South Powerline Trail is one of three routes to North Port, though it will not be paved.
On July 8, when Patchen mentioned the necessity of cancelling the July 6 celebration of the Segment 1 opening, Rissler replied, “It was very difficult …” That is all the more reason, she and Patchen agreed, that a big event will be planned after Segment 2 is ready for riders and walkers.
In the meantime, Patchen pulled out a length of green ribbon and scissors as he and Rissler were wrapping up the Facebook Live event. He invited Rissler to cut the ribbon, which she readily did.
“The Trail is open!” Rissler exclaimed.
After the North Extension and the North Port Connector have been completed, The Legacy Trail will run for nearly 30 continuous miles between the City of Sarasota and the City of North Port. Eventually, county and City of Sarasota commissioners have noted, the non-motorized, paved multi-use trail could become a regional connection to Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties.
In November 2018, voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum that allowed the county to issue $65 million in bonds to pay for the improvements to the former CSX railroad corridor.
For more information, visit the county webpages devoted to the project.