by Michelle Avola, Executive Director, Naples Pathways Coalition
The Gordon River Greenway is an extremely popular place to walk, run, bike, and stroll with our four-legged friends.
It is beautiful, safe, and welcoming for people of any age and fitness level. Unfortunately, it is only four miles in length and not connected to other trails.
When everyone was sent home early in the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us dusted off or bought new bikes and walking shoes. We took advantage of the safer and more inviting roads as most vehicles stayed parked in our garages.
With life far from back to normal, but traffic returning to its pre-pandemic level, we still need safe places to walk, bike, and run. Now, probably more than ever!
The Greenway has become so popular and crowded that vying for space to run, walk, bike, or take Fido out for some exercise can be a challenge. With so many people packed into the four-mile trail, it is easy to see why.
But what if the Gordon River Greenway connected to the Rich King Memorial Greenway a little further east and continued to the new Collier County Sports Complex and the pathways around the park? What if this trail continued to Ave Maria and Immokalee, and even connected Naples to Bonita Springs and Collier Seminole State Park?
What I have just described is the conceptual corridor of the proposed Paradise Coast Trail! (Please refer to the blue shaded area on the map.)
Across the country and across the state, places like Dunedin, Winter Garden, and Inverness enjoy extensive, connected multimodal pathways, but shockingly, Naples does not. Naples Pathways Coalition is thrilled to announce the Paradise Coast Trail which will change that! We envision this to be a premier 70+ mile trail built exclusively for safe and enjoyable walking, running, and biking.
This trail will expand transportation options, improve health and wellness, reduce our carbon footprint, and provide a destination to experience the Paradise Coast’s unique beauty. It will drive quality of life and healthier lifestyles, yield economic benefits to the county, increases property values, and enable greater safety for walkers, runners, recreational and commuter bicyclists.
The first segment we are working on is the connection from the Gordon River Greenway to the Rich King Memorial Greenway and continue to the new Paradise Coast Sports Complex. This will be an important first phase providing approximately 20 miles of safe, inviting trails for non-motorized enjoyment.
We have partnered with the national organization Rails to Trails Conservancy and hired consulting firm Kimley-Horn to help us bring this vision to reality. Rails to Trails even selected the Paradise Coast Trail as a Priority Trail. You can visit www.NaplesPathways.org/PCTrail to see their endorsement of the project and read the case study.
The Collier County Metropolitan Planning Organization adopted a resolution endorsing the project and has included the Paradise Coast Trail in their Master Plan. The next big step is the feasibility study. When we met with Senator Kathleen Passidomo, she was so supportive of the Paradise Coast Trail that she sponsored a Local Legislative Funding Request to pay for the study. We were ecstatic when Governor DeSantis included this funding in the State’s budget for this fiscal year.
We are working with Collier County Transportation, FDOT, and the Collier MPO to iron out the contractual details. One caveat of receiving the state funding for the feasibility study is that Naples Pathways Coalition must provide a new $100,000 local match. These funds will be used to design the first phase of the trail.
With overwhelming support, we have already secured approximately $70,000 toward this requirement. Through an extremely generous donor and Board of Directors, Naples Pathways Coalition is currently running a match fundraising campaign. That means all donations of $100 or more will be DOUBLED!
Naples Pathways Coalition is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Our mailing address is 300 5th Avenue South, Suite 101, #464, Naples
FL 34102. www.NaplesPathways.org/donate. Please email Executive
Director, Michelle Avola at Michelle@NaplesPathways.org if you have
any questions, comments, or to learn about becoming a member.