Across the country and throughout Florida, places like Venice, Dunedin, Winter Garden, Jacksonville, and Inverness enjoy extensive, connected multimodal pathways, but surprisingly, Naples does not. Although we are repeatedly cited among the top for year-over-year growth and as one of the happiest places to live, it is odd that we have so few miles of biking and walking trails.
Walking, jogging, and bicycling are rated as Florida residents ‘most desired outdoor recreation activities. And as stories on red tide and water quality issues regularly make the local news, expanding our outdoor amenities would be a wise investment.
The Centers for Disease Control also advises that providing access to trails is a vital community health strategy to combat rising obesity levels.
Lee County is making significant strides in providing its residents and visitors with places to walk, run, and bike away from the dangers of the roadway. You’ve probably heard about the push the Friends of the BonitaEstero Rail Trail, Lee County, and the municipalities are making to develop 14 miles of under-utilized rail line for a new trail. This is very exciting, but it makes me question why Collier County isn’t fervently pursuing trail construction too.
In 2018, Naples Pathways Coalition developed the vision for the Paradise Coast Trail – a new 70-mile separated, paved trail connecting Naples to Bonita Springs, Collier Seminole State Park, Ave Maria, and other areas within and beyond Collier County. It will expand transportation options, improve health and wellness, reduce our carbon footprint, and provide a destination to experience the Paradise Coast’s unique beauty.
The Paradise Coast Trail will drive quality of life and healthier lifestyles, yield economic benefits to the county, increase property values, and enable enhanced safety for walkers, runners, and recreational and commuter bicyclists.
The economics of trails are well-documented. Three Central Florida trails are estimated to have a regional economic impact of $42.6 million annually. Greenways, sidewalks, and bicycle facility construction create 17 jobs for every $1 million spent, which has a more substantial employment impact than any other transportation
Numerous studies show the importance of developing long-distance multi-use pathways like the Paradise Coast Trail. A North Carolina DOT study found that the annual economic impact of bicyclists was nine times the initial one-time public expenditure to build such facilities.
Prospective homebuyers state that trails are one of the most desired community amenities. In short, trails pay for themselves. And the longer a path is, the farther people will travel to visit it and the more money they will spend.
Trails provide healthy, no-cost recreation and active transportation. A few interesting statistics:
- 43% of Americans say the would be more likely to ride a bicycle if motor vehicles and bicycles were physically separated (People for Bikes).
- 46% of Americans say they would bike to work if designated trails were available (Bikes Belong Coalition).
- In a 2014 Pinellas Trail survey, 31% of users surveyed in Downtown Clearwater were using the trail for commuting to work, which positively impacted traffic. (Forward Pinellas).
With the benefits, economics, and overwhelming community desire for trails, it is evident: Collier County needs the Paradise Coast Trail. So, how does it get built?
The 70-mile system will be broken into approximately ten segments. Many are tied to transportation projects, which often take years to complete. (We were just informed that the next step, the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study for the northern portion along Livingston Road toward Bonita Springs, is programmed in FDOT’s Tentative Work Program for 2024, two years earlier than expected!)
We are doing everything in our power to cut completion time. Still, we need the entire community to contact our elected officials and let them know we want the Paradise Coast Trail built now!
We look forward to state and federal funding coming to Collier County in the coming years. Collier residents and visitors must frequently ask our County Commissioners to diligently promote the construction of the Paradise Coast Trail and support its funding. For their contact information, visit https://bit.ly/CollierBCC.
To further our efforts to fast-track the Paradise Coast Trail, we are fundraising and looking for champions who also see the importance of this trail. For more information and to partner with us, please visit www.NaplesPathways.org or contact Michelle@NaplesPathways.org.