Expansion Cycle

Legacy Trail Advocates Eye Linking With Florida Gulf Coast Trail

An expanded trail could connect Sarasota with Tampa and Naples.

By Jim DeLa/Community News Collaborative October 19, 2023

The Legacy Trail

The Legacy Trail

The Legacy Trail continues to grow in size and in popularity, with construction on overpasses across Bee Ridge Road and Clark Road scheduled to start later this year.

In the last 12 months, more than 660,000 bikers, joggers and rollerbladers have spent time on the trail, which stretches mainly along former railway corridors from downtown Sarasota to Venice. 

And, if supporters can help pull it off, the trail could eventually be linked to the Florida Gulf Coast Trail, with routes that would connect Tampa to Naples.

It doesn't have to end there, says Charles Hines of the Trust for Public Lands. "Ultimately, the goal to be able to travel all throughout the state of Florida," he says.

The Trust for Public Lands is leading efforts to complete the Florida Gulf Coast Trail, a 336-mile-long corridor through seven Gulf Coast counties: Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier.

The challenge, Hines says, is connecting existing trails with each other. "Unfortunately, there are still large segments that have to be built," he explains. "And that's where Trust for Public Land brings in our expertise"—to assist with land acquisition issues.

Sarasota County is already incorporating the Legacy Trail expansion in plans for the new nature park at the Bobby Jones Golf Club, the soon-to-be-renovated 17th Street Park and Nathan Benderson Park.

"What makes this so exciting and so feasible is there's no land acquisition," Hines says. That's often the most expensive piece of building a trail. "This is publicly owned land and there's publicly owned right-of-way."

Once the trail gets to Nathan Benderson Park, a bridge over I-75 will make the connection to existing trails in Manatee County. 

Riders cross the Legacy Trail at Ashton Road

Riders cross the Legacy Trail at Ashton Road

Expanded Opportunities

Bikers who use the Legacy Trail regularly say expanded trail options would be great. "I think the advantage of the longer trail would be that you can get a bit of variety in, just see more of the whole area," said Kate Haase, a member of the Sarasota Manatee Bicycle Club. "That's a huge advantage. I'm looking forward to that."

Club member Hank Holstein says using a trail is a good way to get around. "You don't have to worry about traffic and it's safe and you don't get lost. That's great."

Rick Mizell, who leads weekend rides with the club, says the trail system could be a huge tourist draw. "Bicycle tourism is very popular and a very great way to have an active vacation," he says. "And if you only do 35 miles a day, then you can make a weekend of it going from Tampa down to Naples."

It's a vision that Charles Hines says is very much within reach.

"That's the whole idea, to put these puzzle pieces together," Hines says. "Sometimes, if the timing's right, you can move [the pieces] around, and all of a sudden you have a couple small segments that can become a 60- or 70-mile trail. We're real close to that. And that's really exciting."

 Jim DeLa is a reporter for the Community News Collaborative. Reach him at [email protected]

Filed under
Show Comments