Legacy Trail to Extend to Downtown

Ecotourism

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY DEC 12, 2016

Legacy Trail will extend into Downtown Sarasota, the Trust For Public Land announced last week. The move will create a network of connected pedestrian and bicycle paths from Sarasota to North Port, and officials say that type of asset will be valuable for everyone living and doing business in the region, along with those who want to visit and take advantage of available amenities. “This linear park will have an immediate and high impact on many neighborhoods and people living in Sarasota County,” says Douglas Hathaway, senior project manager at the Trust.

The connection to downtown was made possible thanks to a $50,000 grant from Gulf Coast Community Foundation. “The decision focused on how the Legacy Trail can do a lot to help our region,” says Mark Pritchett, president of Gulf Coast. “The chance to help economic development, cultural resources, health and the environment all together: it was easy to do that. It was a no brainer for us.” Pritchett says companies desire to relocate or expand in communities where leadership clearly cares about these kind of quality-of-life elements.

Hathaway notes that the Trust, unlike many land banks, invests more often in urban and suburban properties than it does large acreage in remote areas. “That’s where people live and can enjoy easy access to places,” he explains. While the Trust may invest in land in the “hinterlands” for the sake of protecting a particular water resource or to meet another similar need, the chief goal for the national organization remains setting aside land for public use, and that’s better done creating parks in populated areas.

And while it doesn’t always get referred to in such terms, the Legacy Trail should be considered a park, Hathaway says. “In many ways it impacts more people than a pocket square park,” he says. With a goal of making every resident in the region within a 10-minute walk to a park, the Legacy Trail serves that purpose well. The Legacy Trail right now gets enjoyed annually by more than 120,000 users, the Trust says. And it also connected with the Venetian Waterway Oark and the Carlton-Myakkahatchee Trail.

And at recent Sarasota city meetings, there has been discussion about connecting more trails to the Legacy. At a public hearing when GreenPointe Holdings’ general development plan for a project on the Quay site won approval, plans for a trail through that Bayside project received wide discussion, and leaders discussed how that trail might connect with the Legacy Trail. Extending Legacy into downtown also has been a long-time priority for the Sarasota County Commission, and the connection expands road access to landmark attractions popular among the sporting set including Siesta Key Beach, Nathan Benderson Park, the Ed Smith Stadium property and the Youth Athletic Complex and it’s BMX training facility.

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