News / Events

Rail Trail project could start in '10

By Heather Scofield

September 28, 2009

DELAND -- Volusia County could begin construction early next year on a 5.7-mile segment of what will ultimately become a 50-mile scenic trail winding through parts of southeast Volusia and Brevard counties, officials said this week.

The local trail segment work is all part of an ambitious project for which state officials acquired 51 miles of abandoned rail line. The $16 million, 465-acre purchase amounted to the longest rail line land purchase in Florida history.

When complete, Volusia County's part of the Florida Rail Trail will cover roughly 40 miles of ground from Enterprise to Edgewater and accommodate bicyclists, pedestrians and people with disabilities. The overall trail will also have an additional 10-mile leg through Brevard County to Titusville, officials said.

County Councilwoman Pat Northey said the first Volusia segment of the Florida Rail Trail is nearing the end of the design phase, with the documents already enroute to officials in Tallahassee.

In December, a state committee will likely approve the documents and the county's management plan . Then construction can begin on the first trail segment -- which will run from Providence Boulevard to State Road 415 in the Enterprise/Osteen area.

County officials anticipate the segment will be ready for recreational use in 2011 and most of the $1.6 million projected cost associated with constructing the segment will be paid for with state grants.

Northey couldn't estimate how long it might take for all 40 of the trail miles planned in Volusia to be constructed and completed . The constrained economy and declining government revenue streams could make getting grants difficult in the next couple of years, she said.

The slow pace of the project -- which is already years in the making -- can be frustrating at times, Northey said. But she added that the project will be worth the wait when it's complete and residents and tourists can truly enjoy what the trails offer.

On a recent all-terrain-vehicle tour of the proposed trail alignment, Northey said she discovered "there are some breathtaking views" along the way that she wasn't previously aware of. High ridges that look down on a few of the area's lakes and waterways were among the sights.

At a public hearing held in Osteen this week, Northey said locals expressed few concerns about the planned trail segment. Several hunters attended who are concerned about safety and their ability to continue hunting near the proposed trail segments that run through a large property near Osteen owned by Miami Corp.

A few homeowners also said they worried that crime along the trail could increase once the project is complete.

Northey said county officials will be working with Miami Corp. to ensure the safest alignment for the trail users.

And Volusia County Sheriff's Office spokesman Gary Davidson said that while the opportunity for crime against people can increase when undeveloped land is transformed for public use, vacant property also attracts crime -- just crime of a different kind.

Davidson said the agency doesn't have any historical data or studies to indicate one way or another if developing a pedestrian trail along the abandoned railway could increase crime overall.

"It's just not something we've looked at or studied in the past," Davidson said.