“If you build it, they will come.” But, first you need dedicated funding. That’s why the 2015 legislation that appropriated $25 million annually for the Shared-Use Nonmotorized Trail (SUN Trail) program is more than momentous. It’s a seismic paradigm shift on how our state and communities view biking, walking, recreation, and safety.
What is the top funding priority? The Coast to Coast Connector. But how do trails become eligible for SUN Trail funding? First, they must be part of the Florida Greenways & Trails Priority System. Then, the regional trails must meet eligibility criteria developed by FDOT and the Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT), which is reviewed via a public input process. This list is then presented to the Florida Greenways and Trails Council (FGTC), a 21-member appointed advisory board to OGT. FGTCis charged with recommending their top funding priorities to FDOT. At the March meeting, the FGTC approved the following priority order for regional trails: 1. St. John’s River-to-Sea Loop, 2. Capital City to the Sea Trails, 3. Southwest Coastal Regional Trail, 4. Heart of Florida Loop, and 5. East Coast Greenway (Southeast).
Next up, FDOT will be working with the MPO’s and local governments to determine which trail segments and phases of work for the St. John’s River-to-Sea Loop will be ready to be programmed for funding beginning this summer. FDOT will continue to evaluate project phases along the C2C for new funding, and will also be selecting individual trails in other parts of the state to receive SUN Trail funding.
From Tallahassee to Miami, and from the west coast to the east coast – the Sunshine State is going to become the SUN Trail state.