Imagine being able to ride a bicycle from Hillsborough County south to Lake Manatee State Park in Manatee County before trekking down to Sarasota County.
Well, that could one day be a possibility as a conceptual plan will start to be developed on the portions of the Gateway Greenway Trail that run through Schroeder-Manatee Ranch properties.
“This is Appalachian Trail scale stuff here,” said Charlie Hunsicker, the county’s parks and natural resources director. “This is not one park to the next, but it is a plan that will take many years to accomplish across the entire eastern Manatee County to solve that problem of getting long distance walkers and hikers from Hillsborough to Sarasota County.”
While the proposed Gateway Greenway Trail will one day connect Hillsborough County near Safford Road to trails in Sarasota County, the county moved forward on the stretch from State Road 64 to the Sarasota county line on Tuesday.
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The county commission approved spending $60,000 from parks and recreation impact fee fund for Stantec Corporation Inc. to “complete a conceptual trail alignment and plan for those trail segments of the Gateway Greenway Trail through SMR properties,” according to agenda materials.
“This was a vision from the early 2000s,” Hunsicker said. “It is a vision of the 2010s and will be a vision in the decades to come as we work to get this trail to happen.”
As SMR works on their final development plans, the county can coordinate its conceptual planning efforts with SMR’s, according to Hunsicker.
“They’ve said the time is right,” he said. “This is not only a need but a very valuable partnership that they are offering to Manatee County.”
The Gateway Greenway Trail dates back 15 years as it is included in the Manatee County Greenways Master Plan, which was approved by the county commission in July 2002. But not a single proposal in it has ever been funded or implemented and a work session with the commission will be scheduled in the spring to review this plan “for updates and amendments seeking Board consensus for focus on specific trails for implementation utilizing impact fee funding,” according to agenda materials.
Another trail detailed in that 2002 plan, the Willow-Ellenton Greenway, which would run from U.S. 301 to Interstate 75, recently was awarded a $511,111 planning grant from the Shared-Use, Nonmotorized Trails System.
Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac said trails are important for quality of life.
“We know what an important aspect for quality of life for our citizens,” she said. “I hear it all the time.”
Many residents will enjoy these trails once they get built, Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said.
“This is a big day for Manatee County,” she said. “I hope that before too awfully long we can see these trails going all the way down to Legacy (Trail in Sarasota). Hopefully before long we will see both counties joined together with these trails and it will be widely used.”
Also on Tuesday, the commission:
- Watched the swearing in of Angelina “Angel” Colonneso as Manatee County Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller.
- Approved a budget amendment transferring $30,000 from reserves in the Parks Impact Fee Capital Projects funds for both the Washington Park site restoration project and the Washington Park amenities project. “Funding is for the development of a conceptual plan for both projects,” according to agenda materials.
- Awarded the Coquina North Boat Ramp improvements and parking lot expansion project to Quality Marine Construction Inc., of Palmetto in the amount of $1.89 million with 180-calendar day construction completion time.
- Accepted a $60,000 grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation to “create an artificial reef complex in 38-42 feet of water in an area of sand bottom in the Gulf of Mexico,” according to agenda materials.
- Accepted a $41,189 grant from the Florida Department of Health for the county’s Emergency Medical Services to “purchase two Power Pro EMS stretchers with expandable patient surfaces and six ballistic vest and helmets which will prepare our service for active shooter events that may occur within our county,” according to agenda materials.
- Authorized Chairwoman Betsy Benac to sign the FEMA-State agreement for approximately $9.3 million in damage as a result of Hurricane Hermine.