Oct. 7 public celebration planned to mark official opening of Segments 1 and 2 of North Extension of Legacy Trail

9 a.m. event to be held on north side of Proctor Road intersection

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

At 9 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7, Sarasota County leaders will hold a celebration to mark the opening of Segments 1 and 2 of the North Extension of The Legacy Trail, staff has announced.

The event, which will be open to the public, will take place on The Legacy Trail, on the north side of the Proctor Road intersection, a news release says. Parking will be available at 4826 McIntosh Road in Sarasota.

“With the remaining portion of Segment 2 opening after the event, trail users will be able to use the extension from Culverhouse Nature Park to Bahia Vista Street,” the release points out.

In early July, county Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department (PRNR) staff planned a ceremony to mark the opening of Segment 1, which extends between Proctor Road and Bahia Vista Street. However, concerns about the path of Tropical Storm Elsa led to the canceling of those plans. Instead, Nicole Rissler, director of the department, and county Communications Director Donn Patchen hosted a Facebook Live event during which they announced the official opening of Segment 1 — as bicyclists rode past them.

At that time, Rissler pointed out, “We actually were able to open slightly more than [Segment 1]. … 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 was 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 has included this map on its website, noting that it collaborated with Sarasota County staff on the creation of it. Image courtesy Friends of the Legacy Trail

Segment 3 of the North Extension — from Bahia Vista Street to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota — is expected to open in early 2022, the latest news release notes.

Rissler has explained — generally with a laugh — that she and her staff have worked as hard as possible to comply with County Commission requests to open the flat portions of the North Extension as quickly as possible. Rissler refers to their efforts as the “race to completion.”

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will build overpasses for the North Extension over Clark Road and Beneva Road. During a May update to the County Commission, Rissler said FDOT plans to have those overpasses completed in November 2024.

As of Sept. 26, FDOT’s Five Year Work Program shows that the department plans to execute the contract for those projects on May 25, 2023.

This graphic is included in FDOT’s Five Year Work Program. It provides financial information for the construction of the overpasses at Clark and Bee Ridge roads in Sarasota. Image courtesy FDOT

The consulting firm of Kimley-Horn has been responsible for the design of the new Legacy Trail segments, while Jon F. Swift Construction of Sarasota has overseen the improvements.

A groundbreaking was held on June 14 for the North Port Connector from Venice, which — as Rissler has pointed out — will be paved in a fashion comparable to the rest of the Trail. The county has allocated approximately $7 million to that project. It will extend from Forbes Trail to West Price Boulevard, the county website notes.

Two unpaved connectors also will be available to trail users between Venice and North Port. One travels through Deer Prairie Creek Preserve, while the other is known as the South Powerline Trail.

This map shows details of the two unpaved routes, plus the route that will be paved, to connect Venice to North Port. Image courtesy Sarasota County

County staff continues to point out that, after the North Extension and the North Port Connector are completed, the public will have nearly 30 miles of continuous, non-motorized, paved multi-use trail. Eventually, The Legacy Trail could become a regional connector from Manatee County south to Charlotte County and east to DeSoto County, staff has pointed out.

During the Nov. 6, 2018 General Election, more than 70% of voters approved the county’s issuance of $65 million in bonds to pay for acquisition of the former CSX railway corridor and improvements to create the full length of the Trail in Sarasota County.

These are the results of the Nov. 6, 2018 bond referendum for The Legacy Trail extensions. Image courtesy Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner