News-Press, Jan. 31, 2017, by Frank Bumb: Carolyn Conant puts the trails in trail blazer
|Photo: Kinfay Moroti/news-press.com|
Carolyn Conant, is literally making the paths for others to follow. Ideally through walking and cycling. Carolyn Conant leads Cape Coral Bike-Ped volunteer organization.
Dedicated to increase the amount of walking and cycling opportunities in the 10th largest city on Florida and one of the country's fastest growing areas, the group has turned Cape Coral into a cycling destination.
Her efforts are why she, along with Barbara Manzo of Lee County's 20/20 Conservation Committee and Karthryn Kelly of the Heights Foundation were nominated for The News-Press' Trailblazer of the Year. They will be honored Feb. 21 during the News-Press People of the Year Awards at FGCU.
Conant, 67, and her group has already made significant progress.
In 2015, the city was recognized as a bicycle-friendly city for the first time. In October, the city’s public works division secured a nearly $1.8 million Florida Department of Transportation grant for preliminary engineering and design of a 7-mile long, 12-feet wide trail. The trail will run along Kismet Parkway from Del Prado to Burnt Store Road.
Grant paves way for new Cape Coral bike-ped trail
Cape Coral Spokeswoman Connie Barron praised Cape Coral Bike-Ped’s partnership to help secure the grant.
“The partnership we’ve had with Cape Coral Bike-Ped has been extraordinary,” Barron said.
But Conant, a Cape Coral resident for almost 23 years, and Cape Coral Bike-Ped are not done yet.
“We’ve got three main goals for 2017,” Conant said. “We’ve got our Complete Streets Bike-Ped Master Plan, promoting bicycle tourism and our education and safety initiatives.”
The master plan represents a report of community concerns over cycling and pedestrian concerns for areas in their neighborhoods and how the city can expand those opportunities from the 90 miles of paths it has already.
Conant emphasized over and over that the master plan and the group’s other works are not meant just for cyclists but for runners, joggers, walkers, parents with their kids in strollers and more.
“I’m actually not much of a cyclist myself,” Conant said.
But Conant wants to keep Cape Coral thriving, adding miles of accessible bike paths to provide options for some car-averse millennials and others, will keep Cape Coral along that path.
That goes hand-in-hand with promoting Cape Coral as a bicycle tourism destination. Which, if the paths are constructed right, will highlight the city’s burgeoning entertainment and dining options.
“We want to get the word out that this is a good community to come to, ride your bike from one spot, and see what the Cape has to offer while you’re doing it,” Conant said.
The third goal, education and safety initiatives, is all the more pressing because of recent report from Smart Growth America released Jan. 10 that had Lee County as the most dangerous areas for pedestrians and cyclists in Florida and the country. But while that report looks back, Conant hopes increasing education about safety will get Lee County out of that cellar.
"We've got a real opportunity this year."
- Her role: Leads the volunteer Cape Coral Bike-Ped group
- Three goals for 2017: Complete Streets Bike-Ped Master Plan, promote bike tourism and improve safety awareness.