Manatee County renews push to add trail system along gulf coast

A trail system connecting parts of Manatee County has been discussed for years, but leaders say they intend to make it a reality.

Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse wants all residents to be able to enjoy the outdoors.

"This just struck a chord. I love biking and running," said Commissioner George Kruse. "I think it’s important for the community and important to bring outdoor activities out  East. This is the first step in a long process."

Manatee County is looking to create a trial system, several miles long, connecting areas like Fort Hammer, Rye Preserve and Lakewood Ranch.

"The first step is getting the approval of the concept and getting the ball rolling," Kruse explained. "We are essentially a missing link in a much larger project."

That project is the Sun Trail Network. It allows users to travel from Sarasota to Collier County and from Pinellas to Hillsborough and on into Pasco County. It even stretches East and West to the Space Coast.

Sarasota County has the Legacy Trail – 20 miles of a continuous, non-motorized trail stretching from the Venice Trail Station to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota. Pinellas County has the Pinellas Trail – 50 miles of near-continuous outdoor space for walking, biking, skating and more.

"We are preventing not just Manatee County residents, but residents in the entire state of Florida, especially the southwest portion from being able to enjoy tens if not hundreds of miles of space unimpeded activity throughout the region," said Commissioner Kruse.

Friend of the Legacy Trail president Louis Kosiba said there is support from county residents for the project.

"The draw to a trail is both physical and emotional. You get activity. You get your body moving. It’s good for you physically, but also mentally," he said.

Kosiba said connecting parks and areas in the eastern part of Manatee County would provide  nice network of trail systems and help draw tourism to the area.

"There’s beautiful areas in eastern Manatee County… and so this would be a natural and I think the citizens will be very excited about it," said Kosiba.

"Once you get the first piece built and you see how many people take advantage of it and how beneficial it is for Manatee County, I believe it will be much easier to get the rest of this built over time," said Commissioner Kruse.