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Sarasota's Legacy Trail paves the way into downtown Sarasota

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - Very soon bicyclists may be able to begin their day in North Port and end it in downtown Sarasota, all without ever leaving the Legacy Trail.

"Within two to three years we could have an actual trail that goes to downtown Sarasota which is exceptionally exciting," said Roger Normand, V.P. of the Friends of the Legacy Trail group.

After many years of piecemealing together, the Legacy Trail is looking at the last few phases connecting all of Sarasota.

"Everyone who lives here can see bicyclists and how popular this has become," said Commissioner Nancy Detert.

Sarasota County has agreed to spend big money on connecting the trail from where it currently stops at Culverhouse Nature Park on McIntosh, 2 miles north to Ashton Road.

"We have committed $7.9 million dollars for that leg of the trail so inch by inch, step by step we're working our way up," said Commissioner Detert.

But, that's only phase one. Phase two will be a $32 million-dollar purchase of the old train lines which the county plans to use for the trail. That'll take the trail straight to Payne Park. Voters will have the final say on that next November – it'll be a bond referendum to be paid out over 20 or 30 years.

"This is the quickest way to accomplish it without having to pay for it all in one year. Because, that would be unaffordable," said Commissioner Detert.

The Friends of the Legacy Trail has been working with the Trust for Public Land group and is raising money on their own to contribute. In the end they say, it'll be worth it.

"Last year we had recorded 175,000 users of the Legacy Trail. This year we will be well over 200,000 so our usage is growing substantially," said Normand.

The Friends of the Legacy Trail began their fundraising campaign on Thursday. While the extension to Ashton Road has been approved, the project now goes into the design phase before any work actually begins.