Extra on Getting There: Coast-to-Coast Trail poised to connect trails across state

By Julie Gargotta , Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 4:56 PM EST

It’s a bigger-picture vision for Florida — to connect all trails across the state. And a recent move by Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet is expanding access.

  • State agrees to allocate $1 million to Shingle Creek Trail
  • Trail expected to be completed by 2021
  • Shingle Creek land purchased w/ funds from Fla. Forever program

In December, the state agreed to allocate over $1 million to purchase land to finish the Shingle Creek Trail.  

The 35-acre tract of land by Shingle Creek will serve as a feeder, opening the door for Osceola County as it takes the trail north to link to the Coast-to-Coast Trail.

Expected to be completed in 2021, the Coast-to-Coast is a 250-mile trail which will span the state of Florida, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

The notion of a statewide trail is nothing short of thrilling for Amanda Day.

“We didn’t even expect this. It was one of those, let’s say, early Christmas presents for Bike/Walk Central Florida," she said.

Day, the executive director of Bike/Walk Central Florida, said that her group promotes biking and walking for a myriad of reasons: health, community building, economic development spurred by trail construction.

The Coast-to-Coast Trail, she said, will transform the state, with the 22-mile West Orange Trail in Winter Garden serving as a model.

“So one day, you can start in Pinellas County, jump on your bike and ride all the way across the state, and hang out in Titusville," Day said.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state is using money from the Florida Forever program, the state's conservation and land acquisition program, in order to purchase the Shingle Creek land.

Since the program began in 2001, they’ve purchased more than 751,000 acres to protect.

The trail project got a big boost in 2015, when the House and Senate unanimously passed a bill propelled by then-Senate President Andy Gardiner, allocating $25 million each year from new vehicle registration to establish a Sun Trail program, constructing paved trails throughout the state.

And while Day said that there is still much work to be done, with 25 miles of gaps in the Coast-to-Coast, the investment will pay off in the long run.

“If you get a lot of the people biking or walking off the streets, onto a safe place, (there’s a) reduction of accidents, as well as all the health benefits," she said. “There’s a commitment to it. We are going to be one of the first states in the country to have a whole network of trails, statewide.”