Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Legacy Trail In Sarasota-Venice Florida

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On 3-28-08 Sarasota County opened the Legacy Trail, the largest public recreation project ever constructed in the area. Totaling 10.6 miles in length, the trail runs from south Sarasota to North Venice, following the former Seaboard Airline Railroad, which became CSX Railroad corridor. Purchased through a partnership between Sarasota County and the Trust for Public Land in December 2004 for $11.75 million, The Legacy Trail is the backbone of network of trails planned in Sarasota County. The Legacy Trail is open from dawn to dusk with the rules for using the trail posted at various locations as well as at each trailhead entrance point.

The Legacy Trail is right in my back yard. My first visit here was in March 2011. The trail is primarily open and flat, with sporadic shade trees at times, and running along the back of many residential areas, yet shielded well along fences and very thick vegetation most of the time. While all types of bicyclists enjoy the trail daily, it might be best suited for competition cyclists, with very long stretches between cross streets.

Perhaps the best section of the trail is in Nokomis. Close by is where you will find the only two bridges on the Legacy Trail. Park is recommended on the side at the Nokomis Community Center instead of the front (there is also facilities on the side of the center facing side parking lot). You will see a chain link fence with an opening heading to a field. Just follow the path to access the trail. Turn right (south) on the trail for the Roberts Bay Bridge (continue riding to get to the pedestrian overpass and downtown Venice), or turn left (north), cross Colonia Lane, then continue to reach the Dona Bay Bridge. The view on both these bridges are fantastic, with a cool breeze usually blowing daily no matter what the temperature is.

TRAILHEAD LOCATIONS FOR LEGACY TRAIL

Culverhouse Nature Park: 7301 McIntosh Road Sarasota
McIntosh Road Trailhead: 7901 McIntosh Road Sarasota
Osprey Junction Trailhead: 939 East Bay Street Osprey
Oscar Scherer State Park: 1843 South Tamiami Trail Osprey
Laurel Park Trailhead: 509 Collins Road Nokomis
Nokomis Riverview Park Bridge: No Address
Nokomis Community Center: 234 East Nippino Trail Nokomis
Patriots Park: 800 Venetia Bay Blvd Venice
Venice Train Depot: 303 East Venice Avenue Venice

THE PEDESTRIAN OVERPASS BRIDGE

The Legacy Trail pedestrian overpass project began on 11-28-10 and officially opened 11-5-11. The Mediterranean-style overpass, a $3.1 million project, was built with federal stimulus funds approved in 2009. The bridge is 12 feet wide, 18 feet tall and 900 feet long. I rode on the overpass on 11-8-11 and was very impressed with how fantastic it looked. It reminded me a lot of the one at the Upper Tampa Bay Trail but with a much different architectural style. This is definitely going to be very popular with everyone in the area. I saw a lot of people who were not the exercise and outdoors type and they were taking advantage of a beautiful Florida day to walk across the overpass. So it will attract a large following.

The only thing I don't understand is why the pavement has levels and isn't flat. The overpass bridge on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail in Citrus Park has smooth surface. It's a great ride on it. Maybe someone can leave a comment and explain. This makes the ride extremely bumpy. So if you are visiting from out of town, just a heads up. Walkers won't be bothered that's for sure. It's just a very unusual design.

Overall the pedestrian overpass does add a lot of upscale credibility to the Legacy Trail. And that's a good thing. Hope everyone can get out and enjoy riding across it.

THE HISTORIC RAILROAD TRESTLE

The historic railroad trestle on the Legacy Trail is such an amazing structure. My first visit to it was on 6-9-11. This is located just south of the Oscar Scherer State Park trail access. In the early 1900's the Seaboard Airline Railway controlled 2600 miles of track stretching from Virginia to Florida. In 1911 the railroad constructed 16.5 miles of track from Sarasota to Venice. This railroad trestle bridge over South Creek is possibly the only remaining bridge of its kind from the 1911 construction. This bridge is located at MM897.6 on the Legacy Trail and is approximately 125 feet long. The length of the new trail bridge is 175 feet long.

The Seaboard Airline Railway came to the Sarasota-Venice Florida area in 1911. In 1925 the Venice city planners had the tracks moved eastward to the industrial section. The early depot was replaced by a new depot on East Venice Avenue. For over 80 years the railroad operated in the area. Passenger service ended in 1971 and the final service ended in 1991 when Ringling Brothers Barnum Baily circus ended. Another interesting fact was the company was reorganized as Seaboard Air Line Railroad in 1946. Many kudos to Sarasota County trail planners for leaving this important historic structure intact. It is truly a fantastic bridge.