Asphalt being laid on Segment 1 of the Legacy Trail between Proctor Road and Bahia Vista Street.

Bikers, walkers and joggers, rejoice! Construction of the new segments of the Legacy Trail is ahead of schedule.

The extensions will bring the trail from Culverhouse Nature Park in south Sarasota to Fruitville Road, and also connect the existing trail to North Port. Originally, the project was not expected to be completed until 2024, but now Sarasota County anticipates that most of the building will be done before then.

Asphalt has been laid between Proctor Road and Bahia Vista Street, referred to as Segment 1 by the county, which will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of that stretch on Tuesday, July 6.

“We’ll also have a groundbreaking for the North Port connector in mid-June, but we don't have a date confirmed yet,” says Nicole Rissler, the director of Sarasota County’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department.

A graphic shows the three segments of the planned extension of the Legacy Trail. Segment 1 is slated to open to the public on Tuesday, July 6.

Segments 2 and 3 of the extension, meanwhile, are scheduled for completion early next year. A new Sarasota Springs trailhead, located on Webber Street, is expected to open in early 2022, and coincide with public access to Segments 2 and 3.

The Florida Department of Transportation is responsible for the construction and design of the project's Bee Ridge Road and Clark Road overpasses.

"Their timeline has also sped up,” says Rissler. “They anticipate completion at the end of 2024.” Construction of the overpasses had originally been scheduled to kick off in fiscal year 2023, but work is now expected to start next year.

The original Legacy Trail opened in 2008 and occupies a former railway once used by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It offers more than 10 miles of trail from the Venice Train Depot to Culverhouse Nature Park. The 12-foot-wide paved path accommodates bicyclists of all levels.

In 2018, Sarasota County voters approved a $65 million budget referendum to convert more tracks into trails. When completed, the trail will connect North Port through Venice to downtown Sarasota, and include crossings, overpasses and amenities like parking.

Jon F. Swift Construction was awarded the contract to build the new 8 miles of paved, multi-use trail from the Culverhouse park to Fruitville, as well as the 4.5 miles that will act as the North Port connector.

The Pompano Trailhead, which will be located next to the Sarasota County Fairgrounds, is anticipated to be completed in the fall of 2022. It will include 12 lit pickleball courts, restrooms, a playground and a small community center where the former Department of Motor Vehicles used to operate.

"It truly will connect our entire community from downtown Sarasota to the City of North Port. When you ride the length of it, you'll have different experiences along the way. You'll be in an urban setting and then as you move to the existing trail it's more nature-oriented," says Rissler.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sarasota County encourages spectators to tune into the ribbon cutting event on Facebook on Tuesday, July 6. Click here for a more detailed map of the Legacy Trail extension project.

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