The Good Neighbor Trail (GNT) is being extended through downtown Brooksville. It forms a portion of the Coast-to-Coast Trail (C2C), which will stretch from St. Petersburg to Titusville, crossing the state. The multi-use trail will link the West Coast with the East Coast.
On Wednesday, September 6th, at the Brooksville Matters community meeting, Michael J. Dolan, Vice Chairman of the Good Neighbor Trail Advisory Committee and member of the Hernando/Citrus Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO’s) Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, provided an update on the progress of the Bike Trail.
Brooksville Matters is a monthly meeting where speakers provide updates on issues affecting the community.
Mr. Dolan stated that the funding for the trail comes from the state and federal transportation plans, “a multi-modal alternatives program.” The trail will support both biking and walking. The city and county had to spend some money rerouting utilities in the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) easement to allow the building of the trail, but they did not directly fund the building of the trail. Moving utilities on demand is a requirement for using the easement.
The FDOT states that the “Coast-to-Coast (C2C) trail is made up of existing connections of paved multi-use trails. Trail gaps are funded and programmed through the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) SUN (Shared-Use Nonmotorized) Trail Program.” FDOT states the SUN trail program “helps develop a statewide paved multi-use trail system of high-priority (strategic) corridors and connections for bicyclists and pedestrians, physically separated from the road.”
Mr. Dolan then went on to say local that bed and breakfasts report that many of their guests come to town specifically to ride the Good Neighbor Trail or ask about the Coast-to-Coast Trail (C2C). Mr. Dolan is very knowledgeable in this area, being the former proprietor of the Dolan House Bed and Breakfast in downtown Brooksville.
Mr. Dolan then provided some history on the The Good Neighbor Trail (GNT).
“The GNT was originally conceived as a key part of downtown Brooksville’s economic redevelopment. The planning started over 35 years ago to connect downtown Brooksville with the Withlacoochee State Trail on the abandoned rail corridor.
“The Good Neighbor Trail is a 16.1-mile paved bike path that follows the route of the former Florida Southern Railroad Line in four sections. The rail line was originally the Brooksville Branch of the Florida Southern Railway, which later became the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad from Brooksville to Okahumpka.
“Initial discussions about a long bicycle/pedestrian trail were initiated in the early 1990’s by a group of citizens. Presentations were made to the city, and the council adopted a plan in 1993 (?) to acquire the necessary property for a trailhead.
“According to Lara Bradburn, a former mayor and city council member, ‘The Good Neighbor Trail portion of the Coast To Coast Trail positions Brooksville as a key hub along the way, making Brooksville an epicenter for cross state bicycling.’
“The trailhead would be on 29 acres around the city’s historic rail depot on Russell Street. The depot would be restored, as would the 140-year-old rail car, possibly the oldest in the state, that sits on a length of track next to it. Later efforts added the Countryman One Room Schoolhouse Museum to the property.
“In 1998, City Planner Lynn Bolton submitted a management plan to the Florida Communities Trust. The trust needed the plan before it could complete its negotiations for 22.5 acres of land, including most of the property around the depot and the old railroad right of way with CSX Transportation. The state agency had previously awarded the city a grant to buy the
land in early 1996.
“The GNT was created in four sections:
3.7 miles from South Main Street to Weatherly Rd (2006?)
3.4 miles from Weatherly Rd to Withlacoochee State Forest (2016)
3.1 miles thru the forest to the Withlacoochee State Trail (2017)
5.9 miles from South Main Street to the Suncoast Trail (estimated completion 2024/2025)
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection provides background on the overall project, including the GNT and other trails that form the C2C trail. “The Florida Coast-to-Coast Trail (C2C) was conceived as an ambitious effort to create a continuous paved multi-use trail across the state of Florida from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, the first state trail of its kind in the United States. It will span approximately 250 miles and is currently 88 percent complete. The trail will link communities between St. Petersburg and Titusville along its entire length, allowing residents and visitors to explore Central Florida by bicycle or foot. This corridor includes most of the 51-mile East Central Regional Rail Trail, the longest single rail-trail corridor ever acquired by the Office of Greenways and Trails. The trail is linking all or part of several existing multi-use trails and will be managed by a broad range of communities and agencies.”