Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Regional cooperation links us to our neighbors and the rest of the state

Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, 12/21/2016 

Dan Moser
Roadways linking neighboring communities have always been the norm and that link is obviously one of their primary functions. In some cases, nonmotorized facilities — such as sidewalks, shared-use paths and bike lanes — accompany them or have been added.

Until recently, however, trails unassociated with or well separated from roadways or trails that would be more than a bare-bones facility, rarely crossed county lines. But thanks to a number of efforts taking place — including those being undertaken by state and local governments — those wanting to use human power are getting better connected to our neighbors.

The respective Metropolitan Planning Organizations of each county inSouthwest Florida have been working together to create a regional network of non-motorized transportation and recreation facilities and roadway treatments. Seizing on planning and funding opportunities from the Florida Department of Transportation and the Office of Greenways and Trails, the MPOs are coordinating efforts to ensure the area receives the resources necessary to make this possible.

Vision of Florida interconnected trail system
A while back I wrote about FDOT’s SUNTrail (shared use non-motorized trail network), which includes the Southwest Coastal Regional Trail segment. A local champion, Christin Collins, was recruited to represent the region at the state level. Armed with our regional bike/ped plans that Lee County MPO and our neighbors to the north and south had agreed upon, Ms. Collins attended a statewide gathering and made the case for the southwest coast segment to be the next area of focus — or at least get funding for projects. While the area didn’t make the cut as the state’s primary focus area, it did eventually come away with significant dollars to start building the Kismet pathway in north Cape Coral.

Lee County segment of SW Coastal Regional Trail
Lee MPO’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinating Committee has been meeting with Collier County MPO’s Pathway Advisory Committee annually for many years, allowing the area to refine plans to connect the two counties. Recently, BPCC and Charlotte County/Punta Gorda MPO’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee met for the first time to compare notes on how to best connect with each other.

Besides discussion of the Kismet project - which is an important part of the western link to Charlotte County along Burnt Store Road - the eastern link along the SR 31 corridor, which includes Babcock Ranch, was a major topic. An excellent presentation was made as to how the fledgling Babcock town will be integrated into the trail network.

And as is the case for Collier County, U.S. 41 is the central county connection between North Fort Myers and south Punta Gorda. It may not be the preferred route for most folks but there is or eventually will be bike lanes and sidepaths along the entire corridor, one that will undoubtedly be a key trail link for most of Florida’s west coast and beyond. An example is the possibility of Florida River of Grass Greenway, a trail that would run adjacent to the U.S. 41 corridor and link Collier County to Florida’s east coast.

It’s going to take many years for much of the network to be complete but there is progress. Much more information about the regional plans can be found at

Join the Million Mile Movement
What might be considered the perfect motivator for a New Year’s resolution, Healthy Lee’s Million Mile Movement challenge will be happening from Jan. 9 through March 31. Those who register (it’s free) can log their daily exercise at, where every “step” counts.

Tracking walking miles and other healthy activities like running, swimming, bicycling and even housework and yard work, will add to the total as they are converted to walking miles. The goal is to collectively log 1 million miles by March 31. So plan to take a walk or run, climb stairs (an excellent training regime for April’s Fight for Air Stair Climb event; or exercise any way you want and log your progress. It just may be the thing we all need to keep our own New Year’s resolutions.¦

- 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 at and 334-6417.

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