Residents’ enthusiasm for a potential bike and walking trail connecting downtown Mount Dora to neighboring downtown Tavares never seems to wane. Last year, the project was studied for its feasibility and local governments collaborated to apply for a Federal grant to fund the project, dubbed the Tav-Dora Trail. The regional paved trail was not awarded the grant this year, so Mount Dora Buzz once again sought the valuable insight of impassioned local trail expert, Tavares City Manager John Drury, for more details and the next steps in the ongoing process.
MOUNT DORA BUZZ: Did last year's feasibility study conclude if "Rails to Trails" (a trail that replaces train) or "Rails and Trails" (a trail built alongside train tracks) or some other alignment was preferable? DRURY: Rails to Trails.
MOUNT DORA BUZZ:What factors made "Rails to Trails" more feasible? DRURY: The railroad (Regional Rail) would not accept a Rails and Trails program due to liability. MOUNT DORA BUZZ: What entity would own the Tav-Dora trail and who would maintain it? DRURY: This is a Lake County project and they are applying for the Federal grant to acquire the ROW (Right of Way), design it and construct it. Tavares, Mount Dora and Lake County are in discussions about developing an interlocal government agreement to address maintenance. This is being worked on. MOUNT DORA BUZZ: How much grant money is being sought and how much would each entity (Lake County, Tavares & Mount Dora) have to put up in addition? DRURY: A $25 million Federal Grant is being applied for again. Lake County, Mount Dora and Tavares are identifying projects that are programmed for the corridor that will contribute to the overall success of the trail. These projects will be identified as Grant Matches to the project. Each entity will have at least one project to contribute toward this trail project. Examples would be Broadband, a traffic circle at the Golden Triangle “intersection” that the County is looking at, underground utilities that may need to be co-located in the trail ROW. These project totals would be in the millions and where no match is required would make the application more competitive.
MOUNT DORA BUZZ: When can you re-apply for the grant? Does the grant have a specific name? DRURY: We expect to be applying for the grant in the next 60 days. We are awaiting the “Notice Of Funding Opportunity” (NOFO) to be issued in the next 60 days.
MOUNT DORA BUZZ: How much work and money has been done on this trail project? DRURY: Lake County developed a trails master plan that has the project in it. (not sure how much was spent on the master plan). The State of Florida did an alternative analysis (about $240,000 was spent on this study). Lake County is currently doing a PD&E (Project Development and Environment) study ($500,000). MOUNT DORA BUZZ: Any other funding proposed? DRURY: State Senator Baxley is proposing a $2 million State appropriation to assist in the design in this upcoming legislative session MOUNT DORA BUZZ: What still has to be done on the project? DRURY:
Complete the PD&E (Project Development and Environment) study
Acquire the Right of Way
Open it up
MOUNT DORA BUZZ: What will a bike trail do economically for Tavares and Mount Dora? DRURY: (Answered in 2020)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.
MOUNT DORA BUZZ: What is the earliest residents could expect to see the Tav-Dora Trail completed? What is the more likely timeframe? DRURY: Fastest would be five years. Most likely would be 8 years. (Originally answered in 2020 Buzz article)