A trail from coast to coast
The cross-state bike/hike trail is now 80% complete.
On a late February morning, hundreds of bicyclists converged on Titusville to be among the first to ride a new, $10-millionplus stretch of the East Central Florida Regional Rail Trail. The project, which extended the Brevard County portion of the trail from 2.8 miles to 15 miles, completed a link from Titusville to Volusia County, where it hooks up with another 50-plus miles of trails.
Around the same time, the Florida Department of Transportation completed a $3-million shared-use lane across the St. Johns River along U.S. 17-92. That established a connection between trail networks in Volusia and Seminole counties.
More significantly, the two projects filled important gaps in the Coast-to- Coast Trail, the ambitious biking and running trail that will eventually extend unimpeded for 250 miles, from St. Petersburg and the Gulf of Mexico to the Canaveral National Seashore on the Atlantic Ocean.
The trail is roughly 80% complete by miles; more will be finished this year — including another stretch of the East Central Florida Regional Rail Trail in Volusia County. The Florida Department of Transportation has nearly $25 million to buy, design and build another half-dozen sections of the trail over the next three years, filling gaps in Orange, Hernando and Pasco counties.
State officials hope to have the entire trail complete within the next five years.
“It is a big deal for us,” says Eric Draper, director of the Florida Park Service. “We’re pushing to complete the gaps.”
The biggest remaining hole is on the rural western fringe of Central Florida, where there is a 22-mile gap between Sumter’s Van Fleet Trail and the Good Neighbor Trail in Hernando County. The state has yet to settle on a precise route, and a preliminary engineering study isn’t expected to be done until late this year.
And no one is quite sure yet how to complete the final 11 miles from Titusville to the Atlantic Ocean, which means cutting through the environmentally delicate Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Canaveral National Seashore. Federal officials are resisting building another paved surface through the preserves and have said trail users might have to share the existing narrow roadway with cars — drawing protests from cyclists and trail enthusiasts.
Even though the trail isn’t yet complete, there are already groups making the entire trek. Later this month, Genesis Adventures, a New York company that produces adventure races, triathlons and mountain bike races, will stage its inaugural “Florida Coast 2 Coast Relay,” in which teams of 12 will race 200 miles from Sand Point Park in Titusville to Fred Howard Beach Park in Tarpon Springs.
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