The Fort Island Trail, which leads to the county’s only Gulf Beach, has become a popular route for cyclists who enjoy the idyllic 9-mile freeway. Unfortunately, it’s a narrow, two-lane road separated by a 5-foot striped bike path. Wide vehicles, such as RVs or tugs, sometimes turn into this lane in tight turns, which causes safety problems for cyclists.
District commissioners recently took steps to alleviate the problem by voting 4 to 1 to send RFPs for a design-build multipurpose path down the road.
District Administrator Randy Oliver said the tender made it clear that the district was budgeting $ 1 million and no more. This means that bidders tell the county how much path they can build for the money that is available to the county. It could be 10 feet; it could be 2 miles.
County Commissioner Jeff Kinnard has been leading the charge of building the path for safety reasons since 2017. When the trail is complete, the trail will pull bikers off the curb, where they’ll scramble for space with cars and trucks. It’s a worthwhile project that has been in development for a long time. The county is on the right track but needs to find additional sources of funding to fully fund the entire length of the Fort Island Trail.
At the moment, the district is understandably taking small steps towards the completion of the project. But the trail would start at the beach and meander towards US 19, meaning cyclists would have to load their bikes onto their vehicle and head to the beach to take the first leg of the trail or risk the dangerous hike on the road. When the trail is ready, cyclists can cross over from downtown Crystal River and head to the beach, all on the safety of a multipurpose trail.
Given the popularity of cycling in Florida and the large number of cyclists the Inverness Trail attracts, it is likely that a US 19 road to golf road will add to the local economy by attracting more tourists making money in the county output.