Editor’s note: In October, former County Commissioner Dennis Damato presented the idea for development of a Citrus County Area of Economic Opportunity in the “sweet spot” of the county around the Suncoast Parkway’s State Road 44 interchange at the Fire Up Citrus event. The site would be shovel-ready for development and provide a blueprint for future growth. The following is the third of three installments laying out the plan.

With construction of the Suncoast Parkway Extension and the upgrading of County Road 491 underway, the following comments deserve consideration.

They should be viewed as additions and /or modifications to the Citrus County Paved Trail Network Map.

Dennis Damato mug

Dennis Damato

A new trail, changed from conceptual to proposed, per the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) along the east side of U. S. 19 from U. S. 98 north to Cardinal Street.

This segment should be supplemented by another new trail along U. S. 19 from Cardinal Street north through Homosassa Springs all of the way to Crystal River. It would connect to the existing trails along U. S. 19 and the city’s Crosstown Trail. This connector would provide a pedestrian non-motorized trail way along U.S. 19 from Chassahowitzka all the way to Inglis and beyond.

A new conceptual trail along the west side of U. S. 19 from the Crosstown Trail in the city of Crystal River traveling north to the existing Withlacoochee Bay Trail in northern Citrus County.

  • This extension would provide a connection from the city of Crystal River to the proposed Barge Canal Boat Ramp, the Gulf of Mexico at the western terminus of the Withlacoochee Bay Trail and beyond.
  • Linking to Dunnellon would come when State Road 40 is upgraded including a paved trail along S.R. 40 east from Inglis to Dunnellon. A future connection on up-graded S.R. 40 north toward Tallahassee is proposed along an old abandoned railroad right-of-way.

A new conceptual trail from the northwest corner of S.R. 44 and C.R. 491 along the north side of S.R. 44 to the junction of S.R. 44 with the Suncoast Parkway Extension.

  • This new connector trail would form a very desirable closed loop in the center of Citrus County.
  • This new loop would be formed by the existing trail on the west side of C.R. 491 from the intersection with County Road 486 to S.R. 44. It progresses west along the north side of S.R. 44 to the Suncoast Parkway Extension interchange. The proposed north/south trail along the parkway would run north connecting with the existing trail along C.R. 486. From that point pedestrians could travel west toward Crystal River and east back to C.R. 491 and beyond.

Citrus County should attempt to recapture funding from FDOT for the proposed trail way along State Road 44 in the Withlacoochee State Forest from the southeast corner of C.R. 491 along S.R. 44 to Croft Road in Inverness.

  • The funding for a sidewalk, included but never built within the S.R. 44 roadway resurfacing project was returned to the FDOT at the county’s request. The county should ask for new funding to construct a paved nonmotorized pedestrian trail along S.R. 44 per the county’s Paved Trail Network Map. When completed it would provide an important east/west trail way from Crystal River thru Inverness including all existing and proposed trail ways with the system.

Closing the gap

The existing gap in the Withlacoochee State Trail from the Citrus Springs trailhead to County Road 39 just off of U.S. 41 has been addressed by FDOT.

  • The connector right-of-way, planning, environmental impact, design, engineering and 100% funding by the FDOT are in place with construction and opening in about two years.
  • A new pedestrian bridge over U.S. 41 will be constructed by FDOT to close the gap in the state’s Trail System Network.
  • The route and bridge over U.S. 41 have been determined and funded by the FDOT on the existing Paved Trail Network Map should be updated to show the exact route connecting Marion and Citrus counties and all points beyond via the Withlacoochee State Trail and other existing and proposed trail ways that composed the desired statewide system

Trailheads

The existing Citrus County Paved Trail Network Map should include the following modifications and upgrades:

Under construction:

A new trail head facility is currently under construction by Citrus County with various funding sources on C.R. 486 near Meadowcrest. It will be west of the Suncoast Parkway Extension proposed junction with C.R. 486.

Proposed:

The existing location at U.S. 98 and Suncoast Parkway could support additional facilities in the future now that the parkway is being extended north.

Since an interchange has been determined to be located at the Suncoast Parkway Extension and Cardinal Street, a proposed new trailhead facility should be located at that location.

The proposed trailhead facility located at C.R. 486 and the Suncoast Parkway Extension near Pine Ridge within the old vacated construction and debris landfill could support a future location for additional Citrus County park amenities.

Upon updating and modifications, the Citrus County Paved Trail Network Map should be included in the county’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

It would provide guidance for future planning and funding by many sources.

Future funding initiatives include:

  • Appropriations
  • Grants
  • Park impact fees
  • Tourist tax collections

(2) comments

NORMAR

The trails are WANTS, not NEEDS. Fix the bad roads first, that's a NEED.

CitrusCo Citizen

Perhaps, but I have met many newly retired, affluent (evident because of the very expensive bikes they ride and their biking attire) people on the biking trails who are choosing to retire here because it is close to the Withlacoochee Bike Trail. These people are buying very nice homes and paying very nice property taxes. They eat out a lot and shop abundantly in local businesses. They are crime-free, friendly, responsible neighbors and that is always good for our county and our neighboring counties. By the way, they look pretty healthy, too. And so I consider the bike trails a need. We don't have beaches, nice theaters or stadiums, major museums, large swimming pools, or other amenities that most of the other retirement areas of FL have, but we DO have the bike trails, fishing, kayaking, and nature trails, which do attract a large portion of retirees. And most of them are not suffering financially and that is good for our economy.

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