When completed, the extension will connect North Port to Sarasota with a 30-mile bike trail.
Dirt was flying as Sarasota leaders celebrated the official start of an extension of the Legacy Trail at Ashton Road.
Voters in 2018 approved a referendum that would allow funding for the project, which when complete, will be 30 miles of paved trail connecting North Port to downtown Sarasota.
Director of parks, recreation and natural resources Nicole Rissler said that the trail brings in an average of 300,000 users annually, and upon its completion, the trail will feature accesses to several neighborhoods and place 48 schools within two linear miles.
“Since passing [the referendum], Sarasota County staff has worked tirelessly, and I do mean tirelessly, to bring this extension to life,” Rissler said. “This is such an exciting legacy project that I am honored to be a part of.”
In June 2019, 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.
Construction on surface improvements and at-grade crossings is 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.
Commissioner Charles Hines said he was proud to be part of a project that allows a safe place for residents to enjoy nature.
"This is going to bring our community together as a whole," Hines said. "It’s a true spine through our community and I expect those feelings will continue to grow as work continues.”