Land Donation Boosts Plans to Connect Fort Fraser Trail to Lakeland Trail System

Plans to link the Bartow-to-Lakeland Fort Fraser Trail with the city of Lakeland’s recreational trail system got a boost today when Polk County commissioners accepted two land donations just south of the Polk Parkway.

Ed Holloway, owner of the Sanlan RV & Golf Resort, and Orlando Health each are donating long 40-foot-wide strips of land for the city-county-state project to place an asphalt recreation trail that will parallel the Polk Parkway between U.S. 98 and Lakeland Highlands Road.

“This is a great example of public-private partnership,” said County Manager Bill Beasley. “We have private property owners who see the mutual benefits of donating the right-of-way for the purposes of a trail. We have state government bringing funding to the table. We have local governments, both city and county, being willing to facilitate the discussions amongst the parties, and this has come to fruition. It’s been two years and a lot of hard work.”

There had been earlier plans to extend the Fort Fraser Trail north along U.S. 98, but those stalled when costs to build an overpass over the Polk Parkway proved too expensive, according to Jay Jarvis, Polk County’s road and drainage director.

Instead, walkers, runners, bicyclists and skaters who want to extend their journey from the northern end of the Fort Fraser Trail will cross U.S. 98 at a crosswalk and continue alongside Winter Lake Road onto the path that will parallel the south side of the Polk Parkway.

The path would cross Lakeland Highlands Road via a pedestrian crosswalk and then continue north along the western side of the road and then turn left along Glendale Street, where it will connect with the city of Lakeland’s Three Parks Trail. From there trail-followers can continue north to Lake Hollingsworth and eventually to Lake Parker when a few more gaps in the trail system are filled.

The state Department of Transportation has allocated $2 million for construction of the path in 2024, according to Chuck Barmby, the city of Lakeland’s manager of business development and transportation. It is hoped that will cover both the segments between U.S. 98 and Lakeland Highlands and the portion along Lakeland Highlands to Glendale, he said.

The city of Lakeland has budgeted $200,000 to extend the Lakeland Highlands Road sidewalk from the Lowe’s entrance to the sidewalk south of the Polk Parkway and those funds will go toward the new trail, Barmby said.

This blue line on this map of the city’s trail system shows the eventual pathway between the Fort Fraser Trail and Lake Parker:

View or download a larger version of this map (PDF)

Next steps for the county are design of the trail and permitting, so that the project will be shovel-ready when funding comes through, Jarvis said.

Plans for the Lakeland connector got a significant financial boost when it was added to the Florida SUN Trail network, which connects major recreational trails statewide, Barmby said. That designation resulted from the advocacy of Ryan Kordek of the Polk Transportation Planning Organization, he said.