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Orlando Sentinel: Bicyclists happy Seminole will fill gaps on Rinehart Trail

66f6856d6f3991fd1c3d3694eb2a7baeLisa Portelli is an avid bicyclist who rides more than 200 miles a week on roads and trails throughout Central Florida.

But what she finds unnerving is bicycling on trails with missing sections. It forces her to get off the trail, ride on the roadway for the length of the gap and then get back on the trail where it picks up again.

Gaps in trail

The Cross Seminole Trail comes to an abrupt end at the intersection of Rinehart Road and SR 417 in Sanford. (Stephen M. Dowell / Orlando Sentinel)
“It ruins the experience and the purpose of riding on a trail,” Portelli said. “I think most people who come across a large gap on a trail will turn around, especially if they have children in tow or are Rollerbladers, because they are not going to go on a road.”

That’s why Portelli was very pleased this week to learn that Seminole County will soon spend about $1 million in federal and county money to fill in a mile’s length of missing sections on the Rinehart Trail, which runs between north of Lake Mary and U.S. Highway 17-92 near the St. Johns River bridge.

When the work is finished, bicyclists and pedestrians in Seminole County will have an uninterrupted paved pathway from State Road 436 in Altamonte Springs to near the St. Johns River bridge at the Volusia County line.

The Rinehart Trail is part of Central Florida’s trail network because it connects with the Cross Seminole Trail, a 23-mile pathway that winds through Lake Mary, Winter Springs and Longwood. The Cross Seminole Trail also connects with the Seminole Wekiva Trail, which runs 14 miles between Altamonte Springs and north Seminole County.

Construction on filling in the four missing gaps on the Rinehart Trail will likely start in October and be completed in April, county officials said.

“These gaps are crucial to complete,” Seminole County Commissioner Bob Dallari said. “Because one of the things that makes Seminole County a great place to live, work and play is our trail system. …

“It used to be that when we talked about trails, no one gave them much thought. But now trails have become important. It’s gotten to where when people are buying houses, they are actually looking at whether there are any nearby trails.

Seminole’s trail network — including the Rinehart Trail — is also part of the 250-mile Coast to Coast Connector trail, or C2C, which will stretch from the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf Coast.
In Seminole County, the Rinehart, Cross Seminole and Seminole Wekiva trails will be part of the C2C.

However, about 25 percent of the C2C is fraught with gaps, and state transportation officials are working to pave those missing sections within the next five years. One of the largest is a 30-mile gap between the South Lake Trail and Good Neighbor Trail east of Brooksville.

Gaps exist on paved multiuse trails for a variety of reasons. Some counties and municipalities are willing to invest in building trails as a way of connecting schools and commercial centers with residential neighborhoods, while neighboring governments may not have the money or elected officials may not see the need to do so.

The trail along Rinehart Road, for example, was built and paid for by the developers of the existing strip malls, large car dealerships and other commercial centers that line the roadway, county officials said.

However, trail gaps occurred on Rinehart Road mostly along the undeveloped areas or spots that already had existing businesses, said Brett Blackadar, Seminole County’s engineer.

“We got the developers to pay for the majority of the trail,” Blackadar said. “But we’re now at the point where the area is mostly all developed.”

Filling the gaps comes as good news for Carlos Montes as he pedaled his bike along the Rinehart Road trail on a recent morning. Near Towne Center Boulevard, the trail stopped, and Montes got off his bike to walk across the quarter-mile gap.

“I won’t have to do this anymore when they fill this in,” he said as he wiped his sweaty forehead with a towel. “I’ve always wondered why this trail just stops and then keeps going.”

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