County to consider expanding Legacy Trail into Sarasota

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SARASOTA, Fla. - Sarasota County calls the Legacy Trail the ‘regional backbone for recreation’, and now the popular trail could be expanding.

The proposal would take the Legacy Trail from its current northern terminus – just south of Clark Road – and extend it an addition 8 miles north to near downtown Sarasota, not far from Payne Park. But first the plan must go through a feasibility study that will cost upwards of $150,000.

"It'd been the goal for the rest of the county right from the beginning, when the county commissioner appropriated the $75,000 for the feasibility study," says Bruce Dillon, VP of Friends of the Legacy Trail.

Public works has allotted $75,000 for the study, and the non-profit Friends of the Legacy Trail are doing their part by trying to raise the remaining $75,000 needed. "This evening we're having a fundraiser at Capt. Eddie's Restaurant in Nokomis, and the Bonfire Jam Band has donated their time and talent, and we'll get some proceeds," says Dillon.

The Legacy Trail is consistently full of bicyclists and walkers, and many say they have been anticipating the extension. “I was hoping they'd do that. I heard they were gonna do it, but I thought ‘well, that'll probably be 20 years’," says bicyclist Tom Sheehy.

Snowbirds like Kathie and Rob McLaughlin from Ontario ride their bikes on different sections of the trails daily and are looking forward to ride their bikes to downtown restaurants and shops and beat the traffic. "We're here for 3 months in the winter to get away from the snow in Canada, and we're here about every day for a couple hours," says Kathie.

"At the end of the day we see all kinds of people here using the trails, so my guess is that the community would certainly benefit," says Rob.

The Legacy Trail is currently over 10 miles long, extending from the Palmer Ranch area of Sarasota south to the old train depot in Venice. It links about 6 parks and runs along the former CSX railroad corridor.

Friends of the Legacy Trail say they will meet with the county by the end of December to discuss how they will move forward with the feasibility plan based on the current funds available.

We do not know cost of the proposed expansion yet. However, Friends of the Legacy Trail says the cost to create the current trail was about $750,000 a mile.