In what County Commissioner Christian Ziegler called "one of the largest turnouts" for a county announcement, dozens of citizens and county staff members gathered at Payne Park to witness the opening of Legacy Trail's Segment 3.
Starting at Bahia Vista Street, Segment 3 extends through Payne Park to Fruitville Road. In addition to the opening of Segment 3, a new trailhead at Webber Street, also known as Sarasota Springs, also opened Thursday morning.
"This is a huge milestone," said Nicole Rissler, the director of Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources. "Residents and visitors can now enjoy a continuous paved trail from the Venice Train Depot all the way north to downtown Sarasota. The new Sarasota Springs trailhead includes parking, restrooms, a picnic area and a small playground."
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Rissler also announced that construction and improvements are not done yet. A trailhead will be added at 601 Pompano Ave. in June, which will include 13 lighted pickleball courts, a community room and open space for mobile vendors such as food trucks, to further enhance the trail's experience.
After the completion of the Pompano Trailhead, Rissler said the Legacy Trail will connect to the county fairgrounds and Babe Ruth Baseball Complex. For now though, Rissler expressed her excitement about the opening of Segment 3 which has opened earlier than expected.
"The Sarasota Springs Trailhead and the northern extension of the Legacy Trail is opening two years and nine months earlier than originally planned," Rissler said. "I'd say that's a personal best for anybody running a race."
Rissler, Ziegler and County Commissioner Ron Cutsinger gave brief speeches to the crowd on Thursday before a ribbon-cutting opened the trail to everyone. Citizens took to the trail on foot, bikes and roller-blades shortly after.
Ziegler said he was excited for the new opportunities in addition to general recreation the trail could provide and explained how the trail could be used by children walking to school. He also thought the trail could attract new visitors interested in athletic competitions.