February 2021 Update: The grant application for the project was not awarded. Mount Dora, Tavares and Lake County are expected to reapply this year. The below article was published on Feb. 1, 2020
It’s always one of the hottest local topics in Mount Dora and Tavares -- the Tav-Dora Trail, a bike trail that would connect the two communities to each other and to Florida’s Coast-to-Coast Trail. Recently, the railroad was sold, so it’s an opportune time for Mount Dora Buzz to provide an update with current information from the trail’s long-time advocate and spearhead, Tavares City Administrator, John Drury.
Who purchased the railroad from Pinsley and how does that affect the status of the trail? The new owner of the railroad tracks is Regional Rail, LLC, which operates short-line railroads in Florida, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania. The company has reportedly shown interest in selling the portions of track needed to create the Tav-Dora Trail.
The feasibility study will be completed this spring. What will it include? The FDOT study will evaluate the feasibility and cost of developing a paved non- motorized trail (bicycles, rollerblading and walking) to connect downtown Tavares to downtown Mount Dora with a connection to the Golden Triangle YMCA along the Old 441 corridor in one of the following three (3) locations:
In the railroad bed (“Rail-to-Trail” project).
In the railroad right-of-way next to the railroad (“Rail-and-Trail”)
In the Old 441 right-of-way
How are Tavares, Mount Dora and Lake County working together to move the trail forward? The cities are jointly meeting with Regional Rail to negotiate the next steps and its anticipated this could lead to an interlocal governmental agreement in the near future.
What would the interlocal agreement address? The trail needs to be owned and maintained by a local government. The interlocal governmental agreement would outline what local governmental entity or entities would own the trail and maintain it. For example, the agreement could provide that Lake County owns the trail and Mount Dora, Tavares and Lake County share in the annual maintenance of the trail.
What is the current best-case timeline? Approximately four years. Here is the breakdown: one year to secure funding, six months for the acquisition process, one year to design, engineer and permit, followed by a year and a half to construct.
What does the community need to do to help ensure the bike trail proceeds? In order to secure funding for the trail, the local business community and residents need to let their city, county, state and federal representatives know of their support for the trail that connects Tavares and Mount Dora.
Will the joint effort between Lake County, Mount Dora and Tavares include funding the leg of the trail from Mount Dora to East Lake Community Park in Sorrento, which would be needed to connect to the 200-mile Coast to Coast Trail? According to Drury, that section goes hand-in-hand with the Mount Dora to Tavares section so it will be included.
What will a bike trail do economically for Tavares and Mount Dora? A 2011 Orange County study found that the West Orange Trail, connecting Apopka, downtown Winter Garden and Clermont, had 1.7 million annual trail visitors that spend an average of $20 per trail visit at local businesses. Trail visitors’ total annual spending was $32.6 million. A Pinellas Trail study cited 1 million annual trail users. The numbers would be less for the Tav-Dora Trail due to the lower regional population, but it would still be significant.
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