By Andreas Butler
For Hometown News
The City of Daytona Beach is extending the Halifax River Trail, a segment of the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway Trail from Canada to the Florida Keys.
There are plans for an extension of the trail along Palmetto Avenue and a pedestrian underpass at Riverfront Park.
A 12-foot wide off road trail will be built along Palmetto Avenue from Wilder Boulevard to Beville Road. A pedestrian underpass would be built at Riverfront Park under the International Speedway Boulevard bridge.
The estimated cost of construction is $450,000 with $350,000 for the pedestrian underpass and $100,000 for the off road trail.
The Halifax Trail is an 11-mile segment that runs from Riverwalk in Port Orange to Cassen Park in Ormond Beach.
"For the past 10 years we have been improving the Greenway. We want to have a multi purpose off road pathway. The idea is for it to be a safe place to ride bikes and people to be able to walk," said Paul Haydt, vice chairman of the East Coast Greenway Alliance.
The city already has done work on the trail at Main Street and Sickler Avenue.
Fixing up the trail can also have an economic impact, especially in tourism with nature-based activities and outdoor recreation.
"Improving the trail could reap big economic benefits. It could actually keep people here in the area another day or two just to take a ride or hike along the trail," said Beth Lemke, president of Planning Solutions Corp.
Ms. Lemke's company is a planning firm hired by the city for the project. PSC provides transportation planning, project funding and grants, project oversight, public information, construction management and community and redevelopment planning.
"It's amazing what a trail can do with the redevelopment of an area. We have seen this in major metropolitan areas like Richmond, Va.; New York City; Durham, N.C.; and Philadelphia. The goal is also to make it where the trail can bring people to destinations within a city or area," Mr. Haydt said.
He also sees the potential Daytona Beach has with the trail.
"Daytona has a lot to offer. Along the trail is a beautiful downtown ballpark with great downtown businesses. Making this trail friendly for people could be a great benefit. The key is getting the other municipalities in the area on board with improving the trail," Mr. Haydt said.
In addition the project can have recreational benefits, reduce the costs of services, improve health and wellness, and provide a safe and secure route for pedestrians, skaters and bikers.
There is political support for the project and the Daytona Beach City Commission passed two resolutions pertaining to it at its March 6 meeting.
"During my campaign I advocated for walking and biking. My district contains some of the oldest parts of the city which the trail sits on. Once elected it is often hard to do some of the things you set out to do. The trail improvements are exciting. It doesn't cost us a lot of money as long as the maintenance cost doesn't exceed our operational costs," City Commissioner Kelly White said.
The biggest opposition to the project is finding funding in tough economic times.
"Our biggest obstacle is finding funding for the project," Ms. Lemke said. "Times are still tight despite the improvements in the economy. We have requested funds."