DEP Hosts Coast to Coast Connector Summit

Oct. 3, 2014

~Officials meet to plan future of Coast to Coast Connector~

C2C

Multiple state and local agencies continue to collaborate on the Coast to Coast Connector trail initiative. Wednesday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Greenways and Trails hosted the Coast to Coast Summit. Approximately 140 trail users, planners, managers and elected officials met to discuss the future of the trail.

The department is working with the Florida Department of Transportation to advance the Coast to Coast Connector, one of more than 10 long-distance corridors identified within the Florida Greenways and Trails Priority Trails Network. The Coast to Coast Connector will traverse nine counties, bridge gaps between 14 existing state- and locally managed trails, and stretch 250 miles from St. Petersburg to Titusville connecting the Gulf of Mexico with the Atlantic Ocean.

Anticipated to be a major destination route, the Coast to Coast Connector will provide one continuous, multi-use paved trail, allowing residents and visitors to explore Central Florida by bicycle or foot. An estimated 75 percent of the trail corridor is already developed and open to the public or funded for construction.

“We are excited about the Coast to Coast Connector,” said Donald Forgione, director of the Florida Park Service. “Trails provide visitor destinations for Florida. We know hikers and bicyclists are already using portions of the trail and will use it even more when construction is complete.”

Funding for the project was included in the 2014-2015 “It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget,” signed by Governor Rick Scott, which set aside at least $15.5 million to complete gaps in the connector. Exceeding that target, $18.8 million will be used to complete 11 separate trail segments in nine counties. This new funding is in addition to the more than $26 million that is already programmed by FDOT for the connector project over the next five years.

The Florida Greenway and Trails Foundation, a citizen support organization, shared a 20-minute video that demonstrates the excitement among trail users for the Coast to Coast Connector.

“This first Florida regional trail will set the template for trails to come,” said W. Dale Allen, president of the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation.

At the summit, the Florida Greenways and Trails Foundation and Bike Walk Central Florida presented Senator Andy Gardiner with a plaque naming him Legislator of the Year and thanking him for his vision and support of the Coast to Coast Connector.

“This is something we can all come together on in a bi-partisan way,” said Senator Andy Gardiner.

The connector is a collaborative effort of many agencies and organizations, including the 11 Central Florida metropolitan planning organizations that signed a joint resolution last summer making the trail project a regional priority. Along with more than nine other long distance corridors, the connector is a state priority in the 2013-17 Florida Greenways and Trails System Plan, developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Greenways and Trails, the lead entity for statewide trail planning. The plan outlines the vision for the Florida Greenways and Trails System, defining the role of the system in advancing Florida’s economy, tourism, health, transportation, recreation, conservation and quality of life.

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