ENHANCING TRAILS

THE ISSUE: Sugarmill Woods residents seek multi-use connecter with parkway trail.

OUR OPINION: The idea makes sense.

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The Suncoast Parkway extension into central Citrus County will run immediately east of the sprawling Sugarmill Woods Subdivision, and residents of the development are asking the county to build a multi-use trail from their neighborhood to the trail that runs parallel to the parkway.

This proposed half-mile long trail would mean Sugarmill Woods residents could access the Suncoast Parkway trail without loading their bicycle on a car and driving to an access point. Instead, Sugarmill residents could ride bicycles through their neighborhood and then directly access the Suncoast Parkway trail.

With cycling growing in popularity and increasing numbers of trails being built and opened, this project makes sense, because it would provide safe and convenient access to the parkway trail. For this reason, we support building the trail, but with a recommendation that along with approving the trail, the county should create and adopt a policy for creating neighborhood connectors to trails.

If this connector is built, it is reasonable to assume that there will be other requests for trail connectors, either to the Suncoast Parkway trail or other multi-use paths the county has developed or will develop in the future. Some of these connector requests will make sense, like this one, while others may be asking for the impossible. If the county develops a reasonable policy for building trail connectors, it will make criteria clear and will head off hard feelings from individuals or groups seeking connectors that make no sense and/or cost a fortune.

While Citrus County has historically drawn visitors who want water access and waterway recreation, such as boating or fishing, the county is increasingly being known for its miles of cycling trails. As more of these are connected to create longer and more complex paths, the county will continue attracting visitor and residents who are interested in cycling and other terrestrial outdoor activities.

The proposed Sugarmill Woods connector has the potential to enhance the county’s system of cycling and walking trails. County officials need to fund it as an organized part of a continuing expansion of trails in the county.