Imagine hopping on your bicycle on Anna Maria Island, riding through downtown Bradenton across the Manatee River into Palmetto, then heading to points north in Hillsborough County and looping back south toward Sarasota County — all on connected greenways.
That proposed greenway network through Manatee County — approximately 75 miles — was presented to the Manatee and Sarasota county commissions in a joint work session Tuesday.
“This is an opportunity for a really long, really interesting trail network,” said John Osborne, Manatee County’s infrastructure and strategic planning official.
Trails and greenways, which exist in counties to the north and south, are nonexistent in Manatee County. But there has been some movement in recent months to have them become a reality.
There has also been a statewide effort to create a trail network through the Shared-Use, Nonmotorized Trails System, which was created by the Florida Legislature.
“The state is also finally getting into the game, which is great,” Osborne said. “They are really considering building a statewide, trail system.”
Through Manatee County, officials are looking to realign where the SUN Trail would go east and west.
“It would essentially create a loop between the two counties,” Osborne said. “It is an opportunity for us to have a really interesting loop that could create some really great synergy for our two counties.”
Earlier this year, the Manatee County Commission approved spending $60,000 from the parks and recreation impact fee fund for the development of a conceptual plan for portions of the Gateway Greenway Trail, which would be in East Manatee.
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.
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 SUN Trail.
The county is also focusing in on the U.S. 41 corridor for multi-use paths, according to Osborne.
“We want to connect the colleges,” he said. “For us in Manatee County, in these areas, these are the areas that we have some of the highest incidents of pedestrian and bicycle crashes.”
Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith welcomed the greenway proposal.
“I hope the plan comes forward,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, the commissions heard presentations on:
▪ The 2017 World Rowing Championships, which will be at Nathan Benderson Park from Sept. 24-Oct. 1. There are 37 teams committed, but the number to reach is 60, according to Meredith Scerba, the event executive director. “We are anticipating a major spike as we get into April. Most of our major teams have already booked,” she said.
▪ The diverging diamond interchange under construction at Interstate 75 and University Parkway, which is expected to be completed in time for the 2017 World Rowing Championships. The DDI traffic pattern will be implemented late spring/early summer, according to Tuesday’s presentation. There will be a public workshop at both 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. April 4 at Everglades University, 6001 Lake Osprey Drive, Sarasota, about the project.
▪ Manatee County Area Transit and Sarasota County Area Transit collaboration including upcoming changes to the Longboat Key route, which will go into effect in April.
▪ The replacement and upgrade of the Public Safety Radio System project, which is 50 percent complete. It is estimated to be complete by April 2018.