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July 10, 2014

Published by: Florida Greenways & Trails Foundation

Legislature Legacy

Brian Smith on the Withlacoochee State Trail, on the border of Hernando and Pasco counties.  The Van Fleet Gap of the C2C will connect to the Withlacoochee State Trail.
By Brian Smith 
Former Pinellas County Planning Director and MPO Director, and FGTF Board Member
On behalf of the entire state of Florida, the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation sincerely thanks Governor Rick Scott and all of the members of the legislature for recently signing the landmark state trails legislation. This important action allocated $15.5 million in the state budget for the Coast to Coast Connector, a program which is sure to be the 2014 legislative legacy.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is committed to completing the seven gaps in the Coast to Coast trail, ultimately connecting St. Petersburg to Cape Canaveral. Under the new legislation, the Department will be responsible for planning, land acquisition, design, and construction of pedestrian and cycling trails and related facilities. The Florida Greenways and Trails Council, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s), and local communities surrounding the trails will all have a vital role throughout the process.
Connecting the east and west coasts of Florida through 275 miles of paved trails will take people on a journey unlike any other in the country. The Coast to Coast Connector legislation establishes a legacy of commitment to our state, residents and visitors, environment, and future development. Thank you again, Governor Rick ScottSenator Andy Gardiner, and all the state legislators for making our State's vision a recreational reality! Fans of the C2C, please email your appreciation by clicking on the links.

Happy Trails,
MPO 101 with Howard Glassman
“The Coast to Coast program and the entire multi-use trail initiative is an important part of overall MPO transportation planning. The key is that it’s multi-faceted, recognizing we are a multi-modal organization,” remarks Howard Glassman, Executive Director of the Florida Metropolitan Planning Organization Advisory Council (MPOAC).
Howard has led the statewide organization for nearly 20 years, which oversees 26 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s) in Florida. He was impressed last year when the Coast to Coast Connector project was identified by every MPO as a top priority to consider, and it was therefore included in the MPOAC 2014 legislative positions. “It was a great initiative because it brought a lot of diverse groups together seeking a common goal,” he says.
Quick facts about MPO’s:
  • Authorized by federal and state law to provide leadership for transportation planning and project development in their respective urban areas
  • Focus at the local level: identify trail gaps, which phase of the process each are in, and the funding needed to complete
  • Board members include local elected officials and transportation leaders
  • Work directly with the Department of Transportation district office to develop policies and prioritize projects
  • Have become well-established as the forum for discussing and developing consensus on transportation issues at both the community and statewide levels
Click HERE for a full list of the Florida MPO’s.
Gap by Gap: Van Fleet
Click on the map of the
Van Fleet Gap to enlarge.

Mike Woods on the Spring to Spring
Trail in Volusia County.
Each issue of the C2C Connector will highlight one of the 7 gaps between the existing 14 trails along the Coast to Coast project.  
“Breathtakingly gorgeous.” That’s how Mike Woods, transportation planner for the Lake-Sumter MPO, describes the Van Fleet gap. At roughly 30 miles long, the Van Fleet Gap is the largest gap in the Coast to Coast trail. Identified on the map as the South Sumter Connector Gap and the South Lake Gap, the proposed trail would connect the Withlacoochee State Trail to the General James A. Van Fleet State Trail through Sumter and Lake Counties. “The Van Fleet trail area is a great destination with thousands of acres of grasslands and live oaks. It is very remote and looks like Old Florida. It will be a beautiful ride,” Mike remarks. 

The first, and key, step in closing this gap is to study possible alignments. A South Sumter Connector Trail Corridor Study will take place in the fall to determine a preferred trail alignment for the Sumter County portion. One of the challenges will be choosing from three possible crossing points over the Withlacoochee River, which is just to the east of the Withlacoochee Trail. The Lake County section has been through a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study and is ready to move into the next phase, which is design.
FDOT is managing the project and the Scenic Sumter Heritage Byway
 organization will assist in the process. To stay informed on the progress, please visit the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation website.
Trails: More than Recreation & Leisure
What comes to mind when you think about trails? For many, it’s images of cyclists, moms pushing strollers, a fitness buff running with headphones, or a child riding a skateboard. But trails are not only about recreation and leisure.
Connecting 275 miles of trails for the Coast to Coast project will unite 10 counties and hundreds of communities across the state. Multi-use trails allow people to interact with nature, preserve the environment, and escape from the fast-pace of life. These dedicated pathways also provide a safe alternative to get from point A to point B.
Trails also mean economic development. For an example, look no further than the West Orange Trail in Winter Garden. The city has blossomed around the trail, boasting new restaurants, retail shops, community events and neighborhoods. Businesses are attracted to the area because of the many amenities for their employees. Access to the trail is the driving factor behind the City of Winter Garden’s growth and success.
Today’s travelers are looking for ecotourism opportunities, and the Coast to Coast trail will be a unique draw for cyclists, long-distance runners, nature lovers, and families wanting to explore new places. Visitors to the trail will have safe access to natural landscapes, wildlife, nationally recognized beaches, and historical landmarks for days.
When you think about the C2C trail, remember what it means for ecotourism, environmental impact, economic development and community connectivity.
A Grateful "Thank You"
This newsletter would not be possible without the generosity of sponsors - Florida Blue Foundation, Felburn Foundation and Genesis. The Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation (FGTF) is grateful for their support, and looks forward to highlighting the individuals and organizations across the state of Florida working on the Coast to Coast trails in each edition of the C2C Connector. 
A big thank you to the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation Board Members for their dedication to the Coast to Coast Connector project, and for providing guidance and expertise on newsletter articles. In addition, FGTF extends a heartfelt thank you to 
Bike/Walk Central Florida as well as all of the MPO’s statewide for their hard work every day on the planning, design and funding process of connecting each Coast to Coast gap.
C2C In The News
Scott inks $77 billion budget; spares the veto rod
Orlando Sentinel, June 2
Gov. Rick Scott signed a record $77 billion, election-year budget Monday that boosts spending on schools and the environment while sparing hundreds of millions in local projects from the threat of vetoes. For instance, virtually all of the projects pushed by incoming Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, including $15.5 million for a biking trail connecting Florida's east and west coasts, were spared.,0,
Coast to Coast bike trail funding coming
South Lake Press, June 3
House Bill 5001, allocating $15 million for work on a coast-to-coast bicycle trail that will cut though Lake and Sumter counties, was among 21 bills signed into law Monday by Gov. Rick Scott.
New races show off Volusia’s trail system
The Daytona Beach News-Journal, June 8
The route for the 13.1-mile half marathon took runners from Osteen to Gemini Springs Park in DeBary and included an existing 5.7-mile segment of the East Central Regional Rail Trail.  Eventually, it will link with larger trail systems like the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop, the Coast-to-Coast Connector and the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway that joins trail projects from Maine to Key West.

National Trails Day highlights Southeast Volusia trails
The Daytona Beach News-Journal, June 12
Volusia County hiking enthusiasts had the opportunity June 7 to show off trails during the 10th annual National Trails Day. A segment of that trail, the Spring to Spring, will be part of the Coast to Coast Connector, a state initiative including approximately 275 miles of trail that will connect the Gulf of Mexico in St. Petersburg through metro Orlando to the Atlantic Ocean in Titusville.

Bicycle-pedestrian bridges in Osteen, Edgewater reach halfway mark
The Daytona Beach News-Journal, June 17
Cyclists seeing progress on trail construction across Volusia County say they are excited.  Residents of Osteen are seeing a dramatic transformation just south of Maytown Road and State Road 415, which is being widened by the state. As that work continues north and south, from the west comes a bicycle-pedestrian bridge crossing over what will be a four-lane highway.  It’s one of two bridges that will be part of the future East Central Florida Regional Rail Trail, connecting not just 52 miles from Enterprise to Edgewater, but also including a 10-mile jog south into Brevard County.

Hernando commission should approve wide bike path near I-75, planner says
Tampa Bay Times, June 21
At a meeting two weeks ago, Hernando County Commissioner Jim Adkins said the county should pass on the state's offer to build a bike-friendly "widewalk" along a stretch of State Road 50 rather than accept the $3,600-per-mile maintenance costs. Rejecting the widewalk would send the wrong message to the state Department of Transportation, Dix said, at a time when Hernando is competing with other counties for bike path money, including a share of the $15.5 million recently approved to help complete the 275-mile Coast-to-Coast Connector.

Andy Gardiner recognized with Rails-to-Trails Legislative Award
St. Peters Blog, June 26
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit with more than 100,000 members, is one of America’s most influential trails, biking and walking organizations, presented Andy Gardiner this week with its Outstanding Legislative Achievement Award for his work on the newly approved 275-mile trail network linking St. Petersburg to Titusville.
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