Legacy Trail (Florida)
The Legacy Trail is a 12.5-mile (20.1 km) multi-use recreational trail in Sarasota County, Florida running between Sarasota near Palmer Ranch and Venice. The rail trail is part of the former Seminole Gulf Railway corridor. The land was purchased by the county in 2004 and formally opened to the public on March 28, 2008.
Railroad mast at the trail's southern terminus in Venice, Florida
|Length||12.5 miles (20.1 km)|
|Location||Sarasota County, Florida|
|Established||December 21, 2004|
|Use||Shared-use for walking and cycling|
|Sights||Oscar Scherer State Park, Venice Train Depot|
|Hazards||Weather, at-grade pedestrian crossing at vehicular thoroughfares|
|Right of way||Seminole Gulf Railway|
|Maintained by||Sarasota County|
History of the trailEdit
The railroad line was originally built in 1911 as part of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad's extension to Venice. The railroad line provided passenger service to Venice up until 1971, and most notably carried the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which was headquartered in Venice from 1959 to 1992. The circus was the last consistent service the rail line carried.
Due to decreased demand for service and the heavily deteriorated condition of the tracks and bridges, CSX Transportation (Seaboard's successor) and Seminole Gulf Railway, who had been leasing the line from CSX since 1987, collectively came to an agreement with Sarasota County to abandon the line south of Palmer Ranch. In return, Sarasota County, in conjunction with The Trust for Public Land, purchased and acquired the right of way in December 2004 for $11.75 million for use as a trail. The Legacy Trail opened to the public on March 28, 2008.
In 2011, an overpass was built to carry the trail over the Venice Bypass, a major six-lane highway. Prior to the overpass's construction, trail users had to use a crosswalk at an adjacent intersection. The $3.1 million overpass is 18 feet (5.5 m) tall, spans 900 feet (270 m), and was built with federal stimulus funding. Another pedestrian overpass constructed by FDOT over Laurel Road started construction in November 2017 and was completed in late 2018.
Sarasota County is planning to extend the Legacy Trail beyond its current northern terminus into the city of Sarasota. The extension will continue the trail along the railroad corridor an additional 8 miles (13 km) to just south of Fruitville Road, which would connect with Payne Park, and another proposed bike trail along Alderman Street towards downtown Sarasota. In early 2017, Seminole Gulf Railway and CSX announced their intention to abandon an additional 9 miles (14 km) of the remaining southern segment of the railroad up to a point just south of Fruitville Road. In December 2017, Sarasota County, in conjunction with The Trust for Public Land, purchased and acquired 2.7 miles (4.3 km) of the former railroad corridor right of way for $7.9 million. The county owns the former railroad corridor up to Ashton Road, approximately one-half mile (0.80 km) north of Clark Road.
The north end of the Legacy Trail is just south of the Seminole Gulf Railway's current terminus near Palmer Ranch. From there, it travels south in a straight line towards Venice. It passes through Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey and has a direct connection with the park's trails. After leaving the park, the trail continues south, passes underneath State Road 681 and through Nokomis. South of Nokomis, the trail crosses Dona Bay and enters Venice. The trail overpasses U.S. 41 Bypass then to the historic Venice Seaboard Air Line Railway Station, which is also used as a SCAT bus station. At the station, the trail goes on to connect with the Venetian Waterway Park at Venice Avenue, another trail that continues south along the Intracoastal Waterway to the Gulf of Mexico.
The Legacy Trail contains references to its past as a Seminole Gulf Railway corridor. The trail's milepost numbers (numbered 892–902) correspond to the railroad's original mile numbering. The original trestle bridge crossing remains at South Creek, located just south of the Oscar Scherer State Park trailhead. Information plaques are placed along the trail detailing the history of the railroad corridor. Roadway crossings also include decorative railroad crossing signals with crossbucks reading Sarasota Rail Trail.
An extension to North Port is planned. The North Port extension or North Port Connectors would connect to the Legacy Trail in Nokomis and run along T. Mabry Carlton Reserve and an FPL utility easement through Deer Prairie Creek Preserve.
The Legacy Trail is also planned to be part of the Southwest Coast Regional Connector, an initiative by the Florida Department of Transportation to built a continuous multi-use trail from Tampa to Naples.
- "Historical Overview of The Legacy Trail". Sarasota County Government. March 22, 2018. Archived from the original on April 7, 2018. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
- "Board Meeting Packet - Acquisition of Land for The Legacy Trail Extension" (PDF). Sarasota County Government. August 29, 2017. Archived from the original on April 7, 2018. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
- "The Legacy Trail Referendum". Sarasota County Government. Archived from the original on April 7, 2018. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
- Turner, Gregg M. (December 1, 1999). Railroads of Southwest Florida. Images of America. Arcadia Publishing.
- "The Circus in Venice, Florida". Sarasota Convention & Visitors Bureau. Archived from the original on October 29, 2011. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
- "Sarasota County Rails to Trails - Land Owner Update". Maglio Christopher & Toale. December 5, 2017. Archived from the original on March 27, 2018. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
- "Pages - Legacy Trail". Sarasota County Government. Archived from the original on June 20, 2013. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
- Becnel, Thomas (November 4, 2011). "Cyclists cheer Venice's Legacy Trail Overpass". Sarasota Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
- "Sarasota County Trails Plan". Sarasota County Government. Archived from the original on April 5, 2018. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "Proposed Extension to the Legacy Trail in Sarasota Florida". Friends of the Legacy Trail. Archived from the original on January 10, 2015. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
- "Land acquired for Legacy Trail extension". Sarasota County Government. December 20, 2017. Archived from the original on April 5, 2018. Retrieved April 4, 2018.
- "The Legacy Trail Bicycle Trail in Sarasota from Sarasota to Osprey and Venice, Florida". Archived from the original on December 22, 2017. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
- "Expanding the Legacy". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. January 22, 2014. Retrieved January 12, 2015.
- "North Port Connectors". Friends of the Legacy Trail. August 13, 2018. Archived from the original on March 18, 2016. Retrieved October 8, 2018.
- "Southwest Coast Connector Trail" (PDF). Florida SUNTrails. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 13, 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2016.