Did you know Polk County has 120 different trails totaling nearly 400 miles in length. The different types of trails that can be found in Polk County provide opportunities for walking, jogging, hiking, in-line skating, bicycling, horseback riding, canoeing and kayaking.
In 2015, the Polk TPO prepared master plans for four trails based upon identified corridors which would contribute to Polk County’s 2040 regional trail network initiative.
This trail master planning study addresses four trail corridors which provide connections to the existing and planned trails of Central Florida’s communities and the statewide trail network. The studied corridors of the Bartow to Fort Meade Trail, the Lakeland Highlands Trail, the North Ridge to Van Fleet Trail, and the Poinciana Trail will provide linkages that will assist in connecting Central Florida residents to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean via connections to the Coast to Coast Trail and the length of the State of Florida via the Florida National Scenic Trail (which has been identified as a Priority Trail in the 2013-2017 Florida Greenways and Trails System Plan (FGTSP). These trails also provide linkages to Florida’s 584 mile portion of the 3,000 mile East Coast Greenway which connects Key West to Canada. The study’s Bartow to Fort Meade Trail provides a critical segment of the proposed 143 mile Peace River Greenway Corridor which links the Coast to Coast Trail to Punta Gorda and a network of trails leading to the River of Grass Greenway.
Aside from the alternative transportation mode and recreational benefits, trails provide to residents a network of interconnected statewide trails which provide significant economic values to the communities and areas they link. These benefits are measured in added property values due to proximity of trails to residential and commercial uses as well as business income and taxes received through food, fuel and lodging alone. The FGTSP sited the following examples of the economic benefits of trails.
- Three Central Florida trails were estimated to support $42 million of economic impact and 516 jobs in 2010 (East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, 2010).
- Trails are the number one community amenity sought by prospective homeowners (National Association of Homebuilders, 2008).
- Homes adjacent to rail trails sell faster and closer to list price than other homes (Della Penna, 2005).
- Every $1 million spent on the construction of multi-use trails yields 9.6 jobs (University of Massachusetts, 2011).
- The repeated annual economic impact of cyclists has been estimated to be nine times the one-time cost to build bicycle facilities (North Carolina DOT, 2004).
- Nearly 75 percent of all Florida visitors participate in nature-based activities during their visit (VISIT FLORIDA, 2012).
Each master planned trail in this study identifies potential and preferred trail alignments, costs, typical cross sections, and implementation steps and phasing opportunities. Key components of each master plan include connectivity, environmental opportunities and constraints, constructability, cost, barriers, utility corridor sharing opportunities and conflicts, trailhead opportunities, and stakeholder coordination. Each of the four trails are briefly described below.
Polk TPO’s Momentum 2040 (Long-Range Transportation Plan) includes an additional 290 miles of additional multi-use trails that are planned to complement Polk County’s existing network of trails by enhancing connectivity between other trails, parks, cities and neighborhoods. Likewise, many of these trails provide a connection to the larger regional trail network such as the Florida National Scenic Trail, Florida’s Coast-to-Coast Trail, and SUN Trail network.