Pondering the pavement

Dan and Theresa Milnick, part time Citrus Springs residents, head west on Fort Island Trail in this 2017 photo. Citrus County commissioners want to start planning for a multi-purpose path along Fort Island Trail between U.S. 19 and the beach.

THE ISSUE: Bike paths linking the county.

OUR OPINION: Keep project moving along.

Thirty-plus years ago some folks in Inverness were not in favor of a movement called “Rails to Trails.”

The idea was to turn old railroad tracks into paths for bicycles and pedestrians. In Inverness there was a group that wanted to use the abandoned railroad bed for a vehicle bypass around the city. Fortunately, the bike enthusiasts won the day and the east side of Citrus County is now known as a hotbed for cycling activity.

Locals stay healthy by using the trails. Tourists come from all over to ride the Withlacoochee State Trail that runs 46 miles from Dunnellon all the way to Pasco County. The City of Inverness has done an excellent job of becoming a bike-friendly hub of cycling activity in the region.

The county commission deserves credit for extending bike trails along County Road 486 from Hernando — where it intersects with the Withlacoochee State Trail — all the way to the east side of Crystal River where C.R. 486 meets State Road 44 (by the Publix shopping center).

West side biking enthusiasts want to join the cycling movement and have been working with the county to extended trails along the coast.

The city of Crystal River and the county have been working together to design the next section of a bike path from the Publix intersection through some isolated areas south of S.R. 44 and then out to U.S. 19 near Cody’s Restaurant near the Jim LaGrone Park. The intersection is right across the street from the city’s Three Sister Springs national wildlife refuge and the Cross-Town Bike Path.

The county Tourist Development Board had approved spending $400,000 to get the project started, but then had a change of mind.

The TDC is now looking at using the $400,000 as potential seed money to get a bike path constructed along Fort Island Trail going out to the county beach. There is keen interest at the state level in helping fund the multi-

million project and the $400,000 could be used to show local interest.

Without a doubt, a Fort Island Trail bike path would be a gem. The potential path runs through one of the most beautiful parts of the entire state and could offer a safe way for cyclists and walkers to enjoy the great outdoors.

The shift of priorities could make sense, but we urge both the city of Crystal River and the county to not give up on the idea of the connecting path from

C.R. 486 to U.S. 19. The beauty of having a master plan for cycling is that Crystal River needs to be connected to the rest of the world. The county is currently constructing a cycling trailhead just a half mile east of S.R. 44 on the C.R. 486 route. The trailhead was built to support the next leg of the path, so let’s not give up on it.

The master cycling plan needs to tie the east and west sides of Citrus County together. By working together, that goal can be achieved.

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(1) comment

CitrusCo Citizen

Great editorial. I have met so many retired "biking couples" who have moved to this area and bought homes, specifically to be near the Withlacoochee Bike Trail. They are not golfers, boaters, fishermen, etc. they are cyclists who love cycling almost every day. They also enjoy dining at local restaurants and visiting museums and parks and actually biking to festivals like the Strawberry festival in Floral City, which means they have lots of $$$ to spend, too. Dave's Bike Shop in Inverness is doing steady business because of them. Biking tourism is getting big, too. I've seen large groups of cyclists with matching t-shirts from all over FL as well as other nearby states in the Southeast who come here specifically to bike the "Coochee Trail". Just take a walk or bike the Withlaccoochee Bike Trail some day and you will see for yourself! Finally, Citrus County is beginning to realize what a secret gem they have with this traill and other connecting trails or hopefully, soon to be connected trails like the Dunnellon Trail.

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