Trails as Tendrils: FLT Extension could boost business, health, and create a connected network of bikepaths

At the September Friends of Sarasota County Parks board meeting, Mike Gippert and Joel Calabrese of the Friends of the Legacy Trail made a strong presentation.

In brief: if Sarasota were to use the existing eight-mile CSX rail right-of-way from the FLT trail head at Culverhouse Park to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota, the potential impacts on health and the local economy could be big, they said.


Similar projects brought a resurgence of business and traffic to towns including Winter Garden and St. Petersburg, where the Pinellas Trail played a transformative role. Forty-five schools are within two miles of the proposed City of Sarasota extension, which would lie within easy reach of 75% of the town’s residents, they noted.


Once in place, the extension can link with a trail to Longboat Key that runs out to Anna Maria Island. Other branches could connect with Nathan Benderson Park, and perhaps eventually to the Celery Fields and Rothenbach Park.


Ultimately a continuous bikeable path could extend from Casperson Beach to Anna Maria, not unlike the system of Kayaking and Canoe trails we already have.
Why stop there? Paths could extend north from Manatee County and south from Venice to North Port and beyond.