Bike ride to benefit female veterans continues in Crystal River

Fort Island Trail is popular with bikers. Members of Project Hero Women's Initiative are shown here in 2018 biking on the trail in Crystal River.

 

The Citrus County Tourist Development Council (TDC), which last year agreed to allocate $400,000 in tourism tax money to fund a study looking at connecting the Three Sisters Trail to County Road 486, has changed its mind.

The board now wants to put the money back into its capital fund. The reason: too many uncertainties.

At its Aug. 14 meeting, the TDC board recommended putting the matter on this Thursday's county commission meeting for approval. There were no motions made to reallocate the $400,000 to another project. However, there was much discussion on throwing support to another high-priority project: the 9-mile Fort Island Trail bike/pedestrian path.

TDC and County Commission Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr. said there are too many uncertainties with the connector project and a firmer commitment from the city of Crystal River and the county is needed as to when the trail will be built, presumably from C.R. 486 to Three Sisters Springs.

“If we fund a study and that project doesn’t get done, then that money has to be paid back,” Kitchen said.

County Commission Chairman Jeff Kinnard said both trail projects are important to the county's economy, but believes now is the time to move on the long-awaited Fort Island Trail path, he said. The county can revisit the C.R. 486 trail connector to Crystal River and seek funding alternatives, he said.

“Let’s get the first phase of the Fort Island Trail project rolling (and) then revisit the C.R. 486 project next year and look at putting together the funds," Kinnard said.

The Fort Island Trail project consists of a 10- to 12-foot-wide multi-use path from Fort Island Gulf Beach to U.S. 19 and includes a new bike/pedestrian bridge with crossings and modifications to four canal structures along the road.

Projected costs range from $21 million to $57 million and Kinnard said the $400,000 — if it is eventually reallocated to the project — combined with funding already allocated from other sources will help get the first phase of the project off the ground.

The Fort Island bike-path project has been on the county’s radar for awhile because the 5-foot-wide bike path that is there now is not that safe and — if doubled in size — would be more attractive for locals and tourists. 

County commissioners will discuss the agenda item at their meeting which begins at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Citrus County Courthouse, 110 N. Apopka Ave. in Inverness.

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Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.

(6) comments

LARRYG

Agreed Cubby, 57million down a rat hole. I haved lived in this county for over 50 years and I still live on a dirt road. Do infustructer first on water ,sewer,roads and then pleasure.

Lourie Schultz

I totally agree with you Cubby. They have so much going on now, and on the table, I don't think they are seeing the entire county picture of safety and convenience to all residents of Citrus Co. They do appear to always be putting the tourist in front of us that live here. Let's get some of this road construction done and wrapped up. Always the contracted and estimated times to finish and open them are way late.

Cubby

They want to spend 57 million dollars on a bike trail and they can't maintain the county's roads? What am I missing here?

CitrusCo Citizen

Cubby and Lourie, you're missing that Citrus County is the 2nd to last as the unhealthiest county in the state and probably the whole nation, expect maybe Mississippi. People are REALLY out of shape here and cardio-pulminary problems along with terrible diet and exercise "plans" are out of control. Biking, and even walking safely and especially walking and talking with the rest of the family, are great ways to enjoy free exercise. Many Citrus County residents cannot afford health insurance and Medicaid was taken away from them by the governor and so ambulances and Emergency Rooms are their health plans, at which point we eventually pick up the cost or hospitals close due to insolvency. With these multipurpose trails, it will be fun and easy to bike daily to the grocery store to buy "real" food WITHOUT driving a few miles, sitting in your car and waddling slowly across the parking lot. That's what you're missing.

g8rbob

I would love to see the Fort Island Trail bike path come to fruition

CitrusCo Citizen

I would, too, but great care must be taken during construction to protect the delicate ecosystems of the wetlands and estuaries all along the way. Marine biologists and other environmental scientists must be brought to for advice and guidance before and during construction.

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