Land deal and state funding to help link Fort Fraser Trail from Bartow to Lakeland

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For more than a decade, plans have been made to extend the Fort Fraser Trail 7½ miles along US 98 at Bartow to downtown Lakeland.

After the county acquired fragments of property from a business owner and a hospital earlier this year, and after receiving a $ 2 million grant from the state, that goal is close to its realization.

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When completed, the Fort Fraser Trail will stretch an additional 2.4 miles, connecting a chain of Lakeland trails: the Three Parks Trail, the New Jersey Highway Trail, the Hollingsworth Lake Trail, and the Lake Trail. West Parker.

Traveling from downtown Lakeland to downtown Bartow by bicycle will become much easier.

“This is probably the most critical and important (connecting) element at the local level,” said Ryan Kordek, a senior administrator at Polk’s transportation planning organization.

“This is a huge thing for us,” said Charles Barmby, director of business development and transportation at the City of Lakeland. “It’s a work in progress for so long. “

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The project, which is expected to cost local taxpayers $ 3.4 million, has posed challenges for planners. They had to answer a key question: How do you get cyclists on the Fort Fraser Trail safely through US 98, the Polk Parkway, and through privately owned land to downtown Lakeland?

The Fort Fraser Trail Course: “We wanted a safe way to do it. “

An original idea was to continue the Fort Fraser Trail parallel along the US 98 and have it cross the Polk Parkway using a bridge. The price to pay raises eyebrows.

“It would have cost between $ 2 million and $ 3 million just for that,” Polk County Commissioner George Lindsey said. “It never made sense to me to have a cycle path on the promenade.”

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Instead, the planners decided to have cyclists cross US 98 using Winter Lake Road. The new part of the trail will then continue along this road, parallel to Polk Parkway, until it reaches Lakeland Highlands Road.

A render provided by Polk County shows where the extended Fort Fraser Trail will go as it connects cyclists to downtown Lakeland.

The trail would then merge with Lakeland Highland Roads, which crosses Polk Parkway via an underpass. The trail would continue north along the west side of Lakeland Highlands Road to Glendale Street, eventually connecting to the New Jersey Road Trail, which is part of the city’s Lake to Lake Trail.

Cyclists will be required to share the road with motorists at the intersection of US 98 and Winter Lake Road and on portions of Lakeland Highlands Road.

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“A big part of the story at this point has been, how are we going to do this? Kordek said, along with the local TPO. “We wanted a safe way to do it. “

County officials say improvements will need to be made to these sections of road to accommodate multi-use.

“A new crosswalk will be added to the Meadowland Park Boulevard traffic light so trail users can safely access Holloway Park on the east side of Lakeland Highlands Road,” said Jay Jarvis, director of the roads division. and Polk drainage. “The proposed shared-use trail will be 10 feet wide asphalt with the exception of a small section along Winter Lake Road where the right-of-way is restricted. It will be concrete six feet wide.

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Don’t expect to see the work anytime soon. No construction start date has been set for the trail extension. Kordek said he hopes this will start by the summer of 2023.

Acquisition of land to extend the Fort Fraser trail

The planned route would not be possible if the owners did not step in to help the county. The extended trail would pass through the Sanlan RV & Golf Resort and vacant land owned by Orlando Health.

In January, the county commission approved a land acquisition agreement with these two entities.

Fort Fraser Trail Stock

“This is a great example of a public-private partnership,” County Director Bill Beasley said at the time. “We have private owners who see the mutual benefits of donating the right-of-way for a trail. The state government brings funds to the table. … It has paid off. It’s been two years and a lot of hard work by a lot of people.

Funding for the construction of the trail will come from the City of Lakeland and the $ 2 million Florida Department of Transportation.

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The Fort Fraser Trail is part of the unfinished SUNTrail, a statewide trail system envisioned by FDOT that will cover 4,000 miles when completed.

Allowing residents to travel from downtown Lakeland to downtown Bartow is important for several reasons, Barmby said.

“It’s a question of quality of life,” he said. “For our residents, being able to go out wherever they live in the city and have a footpath nearby where they can enjoy nature and landscapes is huge in terms of quality of life. This is what people look for when they move into a community.

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More trails also means easier transportation for those who don’t have a car or prefer to travel by bicycle.

“It’s important to give people a good route to get to work on foot or by bike,” he said. “It’s about giving people choices. “

Originally from South Carolina, Dustin covers Polk County government and county-wide issues. He can be contacted at dwyatt@gannett.com or on Twitter @LLDustin_Wyatt.


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