Manatee County renews efforts to add trail network along Gulf Coast

ByShannon J. Cortes

Jan 12, 2022

A network of trails connecting parts of Manatee County has been under discussion for years, but leaders say they intend to make it a reality.

Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse wants all residents to be able to enjoy the outdoors.

“It just struck a chord. I love cycling and running,” Commissioner George Kruse said. “I think it’s important for the community and important to bring outdoor activities to the East. It’s the first step in a long process.”

Manatee County is looking to create a mile-long test system, connecting areas such as Fort Hammer, Rye Preserve and Lakewood Ranch.

“The first step is to get concept approval and get the ball rolling,” Kruse explained. “We are essentially a missing link in a much larger project.”

This project is the Sun Trail Network. It allows users to travel from Sarasota to Collier County and from Pinellas to Hillsborough and Pasco County. It even extends east and west to the Space Coast.

Sarasota County has the Legacy Trail – 20 miles of continuous non-motorized trail that stretches from Venice Trail Station to Payne Park in downtown Sarasota. Pinellas County boasts the Pinellas Trail – 50 miles of near-continuous outdoor space for walking, biking, skating and more.

“We are preventing not only residents of Manatee County, but also residents of the entire state of Florida, especially the southwest portion, from being able to enjoy tens or even hundreds of miles of unimpeded space activity in whole region,” Commissioner Kruse said.

Friend of the Legacy Trail President Louis Kosiba said county residents support the project.

“The appeal of a trail is both physical and emotional. You get activity. You get your body moving. It’s good for you physically, but also mentally,” he said.

Kosiba said connecting parks and areas in the eastern part of Manatee County would provide a beautiful network of trail systems and help attract tourism to the area.

“There are beautiful areas in eastern Manatee County…and so it would be natural and I think citizens will be very excited about that,” Kosiba said.

“Once you build the first room and see how many people benefit from it and how beneficial it is to Manatee County, I think it will be much easier to build the rest over time” , Commissioner Kruse said.