WEST ORANGE — With big projects such as the Coast-to-Coast Connector in the works for a system of trails throughout Florida, tiny adjustments to existing trails might not be atop the minds of even the staunchest trail advocates at the state level.
But in downtown Winter Garden, an adjustment to about 160 feet of the West Orange Trail could have a significant impact on trail users and drivers passing through.
“About six weeks ago, we heard about the opportunity for trails,” said Andrea Vaughn, Winter Garden community relations manager. “The Florida Department for Environmental Protection was doing a grant for $200,000. We started thinking about the different opportunities we have.”
A citizen told city officials that a car had struck a child during Culture Fest at the roundabout to the City Hall parking lot on West Plant Street, Vaughn said. An awkward stop along the trail to cross the street before continuing west out of downtown Winter Garden could be the culprit.
“We’re looking to continue the trail instead of doing this awkward stop here, cross and then turn,” Vaughn said. “We’re looking at continuing this down the traffic circle.”
This would mean the portion of the trail running east-west along Plant Street from downtown Winter Garden would continue west through that roundabout and link straighter to the westbound sidewalk, already part of the current trail, which would give cyclists a smoother ride but cause them to cross Plant Street traffic an additional time. At the moment, cyclists approaching that traffic circle need to stop and cross the westbound traffic lane at a right angle, which can lead to dangerous surprises for both cyclists and motorists and interrupts the flow of a ride even without traffic.
One of the designers of the West Orange Trail, Ian Lockwood, said during its design he did not know what to do at this particular segment and that he expected change. He is now working on the design for that change.
“We are hoping that there can be some movement of this (segment) to create a better green space, where we can have people come, sit down and spend time in a small park, and add on perhaps some parking,” Vaughn said. “We are just growing out Plant Street, lengthening it farther and farther.”
Winter Garden would match a grant from its General Fund, putting funds for it at $400,000, Vaughn said, and an application for the grant is due by the end of the month.
“This would be just a Phase 1 project,” she said.
Officials presented this idea to the Community Redevelopment Agency April 14, and money for the project would fall under capital expenditures based on a resolution to be presented at the April 23 city commission meeting as part of the application, Vaughn said.
The city also has plans to host a meeting in June to follow up on Vaughn’s presentation to the Green Mountain Scenic Byway Board.
Plans abound in West Orange to connect existing trails, too. Examples include: connecting trail on Daniels Road to trail on Plant Street via South Dillard Street; a shoot south on Avalon Road from the West Orange Trail at Tildenville School Road to connect with the trail along Stoneybrook West Parkway and extend west on Marsh Road; an extension from Tomyn Boulevard at Maguire Road to Horizon West via Windermere Road, Stoneybrook West Parkway and Tiny Road; a shoot east from Daniels Road along Marshall Farms Road to connect West Orange High School at Beulah and Warrior roads; a continuation south of existing trail on Maguire Road through downtown Windermere to connect with County Road 535 via Chase Road; and a mostly new network of trails in Ocoee, including the Ocoee Downtown Blue Trail and the South Ocoee Connector Trail.