TPL to Help Create Sarasota Cty. Rail Trail (FL)

SARASOTA,FL, 11/18/03 – The Sarasota County Commission voted today to work with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit land conservation organization, to purchase a 12.8-mile corridor which runs from Clark Road in Sarasota to Center Road in Venice. TPL has the property under contract with owner CSX Transportation Inc.

The unanimous vote by the commission authorized a purchase price of $11.75 million, and gave county staff the authorization and resources they need to move forward with the acquisition. The county’s commitment to purchase the property is contingent on a satisfactory environmental site assessment and an assurance by the county attorney that the federal Rails to Trails Act gives the county adequate title protection.

Calling the railroad purchase and trail plan a “landmark decision” by the board, Vice Chair Jon Thaxton said that the trail will be a major “destination amenity” that will attract visitors and new residents to Sarasota County.
“It is difficult to overstate just how significant this is,” Thaxton said. “This is one of those landmark decisions where people are going to look back in 50 or 60 years and say, ‘Wow, what a great move'”

The vote today also committed funds which will allow TPL to move forward with due diligence – survey, title work, and environmental assessment. Approval of the purchase contract will come at a later time.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the people of Sarasota County, and we are very pleased to be involved in this project,” said Greg Chelius, Florida state director for the Trust for Public Land.

As the corridor manager, the county would be allowed to construct the multiuse recreational trail, but also must preserve the corridor for potential future railroad use. ?

The total project, including construction of the trail, has an estimated price tag of $13-$18 million. The 12.8-mile-long and 100-foot-wide railroad corridor stretches from a point about 1.14 miles south of Clark Road to Center Road. It will be a key link in the county’s Trails Master Plan, which outlines some 271 miles of land trails and about 15 waterway or “blueway” trails.

TPL is a national nonprofit organization working exclusively to protect land for human enjoyment and well-being. ?TPL helps conserve land for recreation and spiritual nourishment and to improve the health and quality of life of American communities. ?Operating in Florida since 1975, TPL has helped save more than 275 sites as community parks, waterfronts, historic sites, greenways and trails. ?TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations to achieve its mission. ?For more information, please visit our web site at