Windermere has had big plans in the works for several years relating to a mini trail system that would connect the entire town.
Following the approval to purchase about 5.6 acres of railroad right-of-way for $250,000 extending from 12th Avenue to Windermere Road in March 2018, the town made some more headway toward its goal to create three miles of trail within the town.
And during the April 9 Windermere Town Council meeting, the council agreed to relinquish ownership of a 20-foot strip of right-of-way along the eastern boundary of 1004 Main St. deemed unnecessary to complete the project.
The land swap and purchase agreement for the property is just one of many future deals Town Manager Robert Smith seeks to complete over the next three years with property owners who possess land the town requires to fulfill its vision.
“Think of a mini West Orange Trail that would extend from 12th Avenue all the way up Main Street,” Smith said. “You would have a trail system that would connect the entire town — both north and south. Because right now, you can’t get golf carts across the bridge, so with this, you’re connecting all your HOAs in the north of town to the old town proper. You’re also connecting residents to other residential areas, educational facilities, the library, Windermere Elementary School, and you’d be connecting them to the town functions, the town square, the police department.
“And then our intent is also to extend it down to Sixth Avenue to the grove,” he said. “So you’re taking care of commercial, educational, civic, religious — because you have the church right up here, too — all through a trail system. So that means that you don’t have to get on to Main Street.”
Before the town can begin to build the trail system/linear park, it will need to strike a few deals with a number of property owners to obtain needed right-of-way to fulfill the town’s vision. Smith said he is speaking with 13 different property owners located south of Eighth Avenue.
“Currently, there are the property owners that are south of Eighth Avenue I need to work with, because I don’t want to go through an eminent domain,” he said. “I want to see if we can do a compromise between the property owners and the town to accomplish a good goal. And so that’s where the property swaps come in, because there are gaps that we have in here. Some of the properties to the north — I’m probably just gonna have to pay them money for it, because the swaps don’t really make any sense. But the property owners south of Eighth — most of them picked up the deal I offered.”
There are three phases to the project, and the estimated start of construction for phase one of the trail system is still to be determined.
“We want to start working on it, especially phase one, which will probably be from Sixth Avenue all the way up to Windermere Road,” he said. “And then phase two would probably be from Sixth Avenue to the Grove area. And this would be phase three. So, I’ll start working on acquiring additional properties north of Main Street. And then, we pretty much have all the property that we need in the east to get to The Grove area. So I’ll start working on grants and earmark some stuff so we can, hopefully, get some additional funding to offset the costs, which is probably going to be between $2 to $3 million for the project, and that’s including everything.”