Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Moser Column: Opportunity’s knocking: millions in trail funds are up for grabs

Dan's column today is in search of a local champion for the Southwest Florida section of a statewide SunTrail System.  He also highlight's Cape Coral's recent designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community.
Florida Weekly, Outdoors section, Nov. 18, 2015

 When the executive director of the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation visited our area recently, he came to remind us of an opportunity we should not miss. Dale Allen’s message was that there’s funding in place on a long-term and ongoing basis to eventually make Florida’s planned trails and greenways network a reality. There’s a good chance that Southwest Florida— defined as the Tampa Bay area to Naples — can tap into substantial dollars to complete its significant gaps sooner rather than later. The money had been earmarked earlier this year by the Florida legislature and signed-off on by the governor as part of a legislative bill. Any chance of funds coming to our area, Mr Allen noted, requires our local governments to take this opportunity seriously, thereby giving Southwest Florida a shot at becoming the next priority area. If not, there’s no telling when it will happen.

The financial resources Mr. Allen spoke of are tied to the SUNTrail System, which stands for “Shared-Use, Non-motorized Trails.” The initial bulk of those funds are going to the Coast-to-Coast Connector, a 250-mile network of trails that will link St. Petersburg to Titusville. Once the last 50 miles of the route that’s left to complete is expended, the next priority area will be chosen. At stake is up to $25 million per year. To become the next priority area we need a champion who can convince local government leaders to commit to the segments in their jurisdictions, which basically equates to putting some skin in the game by providing a certain amount of local dollars to leverage SUNTrail funds. Taking on a champion’s role also means attending four meetings a year that are held in various locations around Florida and advocating at these for our area.

The good news for anyone who would take this role on is that within the last year Lee and Collier counties have approved the specific routes that run through both, so that critical step is complete.Lee County has had its own Trails and Greenways Plan in place for decades and much of the approved route was already identified. Better yet, some segments that are in the state approved corridor, including Yarbrough Trail along Ten Mile Canal, are already constructed. Having been awarded a TIGER grant is also helpful in that it confirms our commitment to creating and enhancing a non-motorized network. If you or someone you know is interested in hearing more about becoming our area’s representative, contact me or go to to learn about the organization and its work.

From an even bigger-picture view, some of Florida’s network will be part of the US Bicycle Route, an ambitious joint effort by Adventure Cycling and American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. On Florida’s Atlantic coast, from the Georgia state line to Key West, the East Coast Greenway is being completed segment by segment with much of it in place. In fact, according to the ECG’s website “Florida boasts the longest portion of Greenway with the most miles of completed trail. The route includes 198 miles of completed traffic-free paths and the most bridges of any ECG state.” While that’s all well and good, what’s most important to those of us in Southwest Florida is that there are plans to add an “alternate route that will provide access to Florida’s Gulf Coast, the Pinellas Trail and Lake Okeechobee,” also according to the ECG website. The many positive economic impacts of trails, greenways, and on-road bike routes should be enough to convince even the most skeptical that these are undoubtedly worthy expenditures of taxpayer funds. For more about USBR, visit

Cape Coral update

Speaking of positive economic impacts, the city of Cape Coral is now officially designated as a Bike Friendly Community. In case you hadn’t heard, just this past Monday the League of American Bicyclists announced its annual list of BFCs, which includes Cape Coral coming in at the Bronze Level in its first application. There’s no doubt it’s well deserved. City leaders, both elected officials and staff members, are to be congratulated for working with Cape Coral Bike-Ped, businesses and others in the private sector over the past couple of years to make this significant achievement possible.

Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways. ¦

Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him or 334- 6417.

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