Process begun to name 1-mile section of Legacy Trail after long-time advocate Bruce Dillon

Nonprofit Friends of Legacy Trail makes the request of the County Commission

Bruce Dillon addresses the County Commission in April 2015. File photo

On Sept. 8, the Sarasota County Commission authorized a process that is expected to lead to the naming of a 1-mile section of The Legacy Trail in memory of Bruce Dillon, who “played an integral role in the initial development of The Legacy Trail from the Venice Train Depot to Culverhouse Nature Park,” as a county staff memo put it.

In its unanimous vote of approval of its Consent Agenda of routine business matters that day, the board authorized advertisement of a formal notice of its intent to seek names for the portion of the Trail that is within Nokomis.

None of the board members commented on the issue, which is common in regard to Consent Agenda items.

The Sept. 8 staff memo also pointed out that Dillon was “active in the front lines of the 2018 Legacy Trail referendum,” which 70% of voters approved during the November 2018 General Election. That referendum allowed the county to issue $65 million in bonds to pay for extending The Legacy Trail to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota and to improve connections to the City of North Port.

“Finally, Bruce was a mainstay in countless other trail and community initiatives,” the memo said. Bruce Dillon had “a passion for sports, health, and wellness,” the memo added.

Dillon died on Nov. 24, 2020. His obituary pointed out that he “timelessly supported his community and the Legacy Trail.” In fact, the obituary asked that, in lieu of flowers, that contributions be made to the nonprofit Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s or The Legacy Trail, through the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

The nonprofit Friends of the Legacy Trail noted his death on its website: “We are saddened to learn of the passing of Bruce Dillon, one of the founders and past presidents of Friends of The Legacy Trail. Bruce was the driving force in proposing and promoting the extension of The Trail into downtown Sarasota. His vision, experience, and counsel will be missed.”

The Friends of the Legacy Trail sent a letter to County Commission Chair Alan Maio on May 25, requesting that the 1-mile segment of the Trail within Nokomis, including the trestle over Shakett Creek, be named the Bruce Dillon Memorial Mile. The creek is near the location where Dillon lived, the letter explained.

A document included in the Sept. 8 agenda packet says the mile would start at the Nokomis Community Park and extend north.

“In addition to his dedication to County-wide issues and organizations,” the Friends of the Legacy Trail letter continued, “Bruce worked hard for his local community with service on the Nokomis Area Civic Association, Nokomis East Neighborhood Association, Nokomis Revitalization Committee and Friends of Nokomis Parks. His work and success are seen and known throughout the Nokomis community.”

This graphic shows the location of Shakett Creek. Image from the Sarasota County Water Atlas

The Friends of the Legacy Trail board has agreed to cover all the costs of “appropriate markers at both ends of the mile,” with a memorial plaque to be installed in one of the Shakett Creek overlook areas, the letter added.

On May 10, the Board of Directors of the Friends of The Legacy Trail voted unanimously to make the naming request, the letter said.

Rita Miotti, vice president of the nonprofit, signed the letter.

The Aug. 24 staff memo in the commissioners’ agenda packet outlined the steps in Section 2-2(d) of the County Code, which governs the naming of county facilities. The first on the list is the necessity of County Commission direction to staff, during a public meeting, to publish in a “newspaper of general circulation” the notice of intent to name a county property or facility.

The draft notice pointed out that the name solicitation period will be Sept. 14 through Oct. 14. No variation of that timeline was noted during the Sept. 8 meeting.

The proposed names “must be accompanied by an explanation and any necessary documentation as to how each proposed name satisfies the [county’s] selection criteria,” the notice says.

Referencing that applicable section of the County Code, the staff memo also noted, “The Board of County Commissioners has full discretion to name the subject property after a significant contributor to the property …”

This is the Notice of Intent for the naming of the 1-mile section of The Legacy Trail. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The name selection committee must convene no later than 30 days after the closing of the submittal period, the staff memo adds.

Finally, the recommended names must be submitted to the County Commission within 30 days of the convening of the committee, so the commissioners can consider those names.