Cyclists, runners, walkers and business owners are rejoicing this morning. Mount Dora City Council voted 7-0 last night that the proposed Wekiva Trail should proceed to the next step.
The project requires a significant amount of logistics and a lengthy process for state and federal funding, so it may be 5 years before shovels hit the dirt, according to T.J. Fish, executive director of Lake Sumter Metropolitan Planning Organization. Once construction begins, the project is expected to be completed relatively quickly.
The planned Wekiva Trail, provides Mount Dora the opportunity to enhance the community with a showcase regional bike trail that would connect its downtown with various neighborhoods. Additionally, the trail would link to Seminole and Orange counties to the Central Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail.
The vote last night by the Mount Dora City Council accepted the four-year study of the best trail alignment and to proceed so funds set aside in this year’s state budget will be utilize to design the trail.
"This is an important and greatly anticipated project for Mount Dora," said Mayor Nick Girone. "Our community could have a wonderful, new recreational amenity with a positive economic impact in the future."
Now the proposed trail will go before the Lake County Board of County Commissioners on March 1.Lake County has offered to accept the design funding and manage the engineering of the trail from Mount Dora east to the neighboring counties. Lake County is expected to move forward on the project due to Mount Dora's approval. Originally thought to be completed in one year, the project development and environment study that opened in 2012 is now nearing completion. Afte ranalyzing five alternatives, the study has resulted in a preferred route to follow the historic rail corridor currently utilized by Florida Central Railroad. Because of the utilization of the rail bed, no trees will be removed to accommodate the trail.
The trail would begin in downtown and cross Tremain Street and US 441 utilizing existing bridges. The trail would continue through Sorrento and Mount Plymouth to just east of Camp Challenge where the first completed segment of the Wekiva Parkway beltway project just opened to traffic.
A major trailhead is planned adjacent to the interchange of SR 46 and SR 429. At that trailhead, trail users can choose to continue east into Seminole County and the Seminole Trail or to turn south into Orange County to the West Orange Trail. Both of those trails are part of the 250-mile Central Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail. That extensive trail connects the Canaveral National Seashore in Brevard County to St. Petersburg in Pinellas County.Eighty percent of the coast-to-coast trail is complete with the remaining gaps to be filled.
The Wekiva Trail would utilize the existing public parking lot northwest of the rail trestle over Tremain Street. The railroad trestle would be preserved and would be adapted for walkers and cyclists by replacing the rail with a deck and adding safety railing. (see rendering). A sidewalk could be constructed under the trestle connecting the Tremain Street Greenway with the Wekiva Trail. The appearance of the iconic trestle will be preserved.
Reviewing agencies supported use of the trestle for the trail because that option was the best to ensure preservation of the trestle. The proposed alignment of the trail has been supported through a process involving the Federal Highway Administration, which is providing funding for studying, designing and eventually for constructing the trail.
Also supporting the effort through the planning process are the Florida Department of Transportation and the State Historic Preservation Office. The proposed alignment along the rail corridor was also supported by a cultural resource committee formed as part of the study and by the Mount Dora Historic Preservation Board.
Upcoming public meetings in Mount Dora will be planned for this spring. Additional information on the Wekiva Trail can be found at LakeWekivaTrail.com.
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Above: Rail bridge in Mount Dora to become part of trail. Below: Rendering of same bridge with trail. Design has since changed so railings are less visually obtrusive.