Public input sought for Orange County’s trails

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Orange County's trails
Multi-modal trails, as seen in this map for the trail system's master plan, are spread throughout Orange County.

Until Thursday, September 10, the public is invited to give its input on a master plan focused on a redesign of Orange County’s trails, including the Lake Apopka Loop Trail and West Orange Trail.

Orange County Parks and Recreation Division opened the first Trails Master Plan virtual public outreach meeting on August 20 at www.ocfltrailsplan.com.

The virtual meeting room presents maps of current trails, explains the study process, and seeks input on existing trail conditions.

Before exiting the virtual room, guests can take the Trails Master Plan survey and leave any comments.

“It’s an open survey and a public comment opportunity,” said Matt Suedmeyer, manager of Orange County Parks and Recreation. “By visiting the website, you’ll be able to leave comments that you’d like to leave, and also take a survey regarding what you feel the biggest need is for our trail system and where they should be located.”

In addition to Lake Apopka Loop Trail and West Orange Trail, other trails up for review are Avalon Trail, Cady Way Trail, Clarcona-Ocoee Connector Trail, Horizon West Trail, Innovation Way Trail, Little Econ Greenway, Pine Hills Trail, and Shingle Creek Trail.

The purpose of this study is to develop a safe, scenic, and visitor-friendly system of trails and to provide outdoor recreation and active transportation options.

A second virtual meeting will be scheduled later for additional input on future trails.

“There will be multiple input meetings,” Suedmeyer said. “Right now, this is just the very first one, to kind of give everybody an overview of what we’ll be doing, reviewing the process of developing a master plan.”

BHB, an Orlando planning and consulting firm, has been contracted to work on the trails master plan for $160,000.

The top issues affecting the trails system are pedestrian safety, connectivity, and alternative modes of transportation.

Orange County’s trails are multi-use pedestrian trails where people can bike, walk, jog, and skateboard. Motorized vehicles are prohibited on the trails unless they’re for ADA purposes.

The trail system was built in a phased approach depending on funding, Suedmeyer said, resulting in a lack of connectivity.

The first in the county’s trails program was the West Orange Trail, a 22.26-mile paved stretch that was constructed on a railroad corridor in 1995. The West Orange Trail begins at Killarney Station on Old State Road 50 and extends north into Apopka.

Over time, other trails were added to the system.

Next year, Orange County will connect West Orange Trail to Magnolia Park. West Orange Trail is a 22-mile rail trail that stretches from Killarney Station at Old C.R. 50 and Lake Boulevard in Oakland at the Orange County line to East Welch Road and Rock Springs Road in Apopka.

Engineering and design phases are under way with hopes of construction to start in summer 2021, Dunn said. This extension will allow cyclists to ride from West Orange Trail, up and across Lake Apopka on the Lake Apopka Loop trail, Dunn said.

“We’ve always been working on a plan to provide a connectivity to the trail system. For instance, we’re working on right now connecting the West Orange Trail to the North Lake Apopka Loop Trail. We just hired a consultant to work on that design for us next year. There’s a lot of different trails being designed and planned and built right now, but it’s all in a phased approach depending on funding.”

Suedmeyer said he didn’t know the exact number for the yearly trail maintenance budget, but it’s inexpensive.

“We mow just the right-of-way of the trail, on both sides of the trail,” he said. “The biggest cost is the staff labor to provide maintenance, and to clean restrooms and to provide maintenance to the trail heads, but the trails are easily maintained and not as possibly as other amenities.”

The trails master plan will take into consideration the cities’ trails. Orange County’s consultant will reach out to local municipalities for input as part of the master planning process, Suedmeyer said.

For questions about the virtual meeting, contact parks@ocfl.net or call Parks Administration at 407-836-6200, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.