The project will connect the trail's current terminus at Culverhouse Nature Park to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota.
When Sarasota resident Beverly Marchese heard the Legacy Trail extension would run past her fenced-in backyard, she had a gate added in anticipation.
She often goes for walks and is looking forward to the easy connection to nature.
“We can’t wait for it to be built,” Marchese said. “I just want to be out walking the trail, enjoying nature, that kind of thing.”
Construction on the Legacy Trail extension is set to begin in 2020. Voters in 2018 approved a referendum to secure funding for the project.
The extension will create 30 miles of continuous nonmotorized paved trail. It will place 27 schools within one linear mile and 45 schools within two linear miles of the trail.
In June, Sarasota County acquired the railroad corridor that will be used to connect the trail from its current northern end at Culverhouse Nature Park to Payne Park.
Activity on the corridor has been ongoing since then, with the railroad company removing rails and other equipment. Survey crews have been at work as well.
At a public meeting Nov. 14, several residents expressed concerns that the vegetation around their homes would be removed to make way for the trail.
Director of Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Nicole Rissler said that any time the county can leave vegetation, it will.
“Any time that we have vegetation that’s existing that we don’t have to impact, we’re not going to,” Rissler said. “That’s a free buffer for us, and we will try to keep as much of that as possible to help protect the neighbors.”
Other residents said they worried there would be a lot of noise from construction. Although there will be some noise, Rissler said that because it is not vertical construction, which tends to be the loudest type of construction, it shouldn’t be too loud.
Marchese said she wasn’t worried about the noise because of the payoff it would bring.
“I know it’s going to be noisy until it’s finished, but that doesn’t bother me at all,” she said. “At the end we get a beautiful trail.”
Kimley-Horn and Associations was hired as the design and engineering firm, and Jon F. Swift Construction was hired as the construction management firm.
Construction on the connection is anticipated to begin in 2020 with surface improvements and at-grade crossings expected to be complete by the end of 2022.
Through a partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation, trail overpasses are planned for Clark and Bee Ridge roads in the coming years.
Additional overpasses are planned for Beneva Road, Tuttle Avenue and Bahia Vista Street, though funding has not yet been secured for those projects.
The extension to the north will be divided into three segments:
- Segment one will extend from Proctor Road to Bahia Vista Street with a new trailhead at Webber Street;
- Segment two will extend from the current northern terminus at Culverhouse Nature Park to Proctor Road with a trail head at Ashton Road; and
- Segment three will go from Bahia Vista Street to Ringling Boulevard with a trailhead at Pompano Avenue.
Although the trail will be built in segments, projects will be done concurrently as designs and permitting of each segment is approved.
Rissler said that there are still some parts, such as funding for certain aspects, that need to be secured, but she is excited to see the final product.
“In general, in your career, you get to touch some things that in 30 years, people are going to be like, ‘Wow, you guys did this,’ and this is one of those projects,” she said. “To be here during this time and to see it come to fruition and be a part of it is very, very cool.”