The Legacy Trail, Impressions by Sandy Estabrook

- Click to enlarge all picts. -

Google Earth satellite image

My bike at Robert's Bay. If you see me, be sure to say hi.

Bike Path with shelter in distance

Biking folks met at a rest area

Three events led to the birth of this web page. The obvious opening of The Legacy Trail which gave rise to my purchase of a bike. And lastly a newly acquired iPhone.

The Legacy Trail had just opened and I was anxious to see it. As for exercise, it would sure beat the treadmill in our developments clubhouse. But first a little history.

Local folks no doubt know about the Legacy Trail since its official completion, fall of 2011. For the newcomer, the Legacy Trail is nothing more than the paved over railroad bed of the CSX Railroad, previously the Atlantic Coast Line, Tampa Southern Railroad, and Seaboard Airline Railway.

The Legacy Trail occupies the tracks that were laid were to serve the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus winter quarters (1911) and the Payne Terminal on Sarasota Bay with numerous other businesses that came along. The first passenger train (SAL) arrived in Sarasota on December 1924. The last, 1971. The later 16 mile extension took the tracks to its southern point where in 1927 by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers built the Venice Depot.

It's not my intent to get into the Railroad's history in any depth. For that, you'll find some useful links at the bottom of the page. My purpose is just to relate my experience biking on the legacy Trail, one of the nicest things a city has done for its citizenry. I've made numerous trips and have never tired of it.

About the mention of my iPhone; in addition to the obvious, a phone is useful when biking the Trail in case of emergency. Many offer Odometer / GPS Apps which are very useful. And in this case, the majority of the pictures on this web page were shot with my iPhone4's camera. Still, for any picts of quality, I'd suggest a more recent model iPhone or better yet, for more creative folks, get a "GoPro" Camera. It has lots of great features particularly suited for outdoor use and at a reasonable price. As of Fall 2013, I upgraded to an iPhone 5c - Pictures marked with an *.

We should point out the Legacy Trail is not just for bikers. You'll see walkers, some with their dogs, joggers and rollerbladers, and occasionally some really weird looking bicycles that one would think you'd have to be a contortionist to ride. And in recent times surry rides became available. Contact Legacy Trail Friends.

First impressions:

In a sentence, The Trail is an alluring trek back to Old Florida that I have yet to find monotonous. It's like entering a time warp into Florida as it once was. It's quiet and a place of serenity, especially the less traveled weekdays. (At least the part south of Central Sarasota Parkway.) When you include the Venice network of bike paths you can cruise adjacent to the Inter Coastal waterway or head to the Gulf of Mexico. Although still on the Trail(s), the serenity part of the Trail ends at Dona Bay. Here you enter adjacent populated areas with the signs of civilization and traffic noise etc. until clear of US 41 bike overpass. More on that below.

My starting mile marker

Roadside foliage

Roadside foliage

A pretty bush

Pasture land on trail's east side.

Oscar Scherer Park entrance

Vintage RR Trestle with adjacent bike path

Donation by local bike club.

Old switch track near Laurel Rd.

Trail Head at Bay Street w/Water Fountain*

Bald Eagle atop power pole.

My access to the Legacy Trail is generally at Central Sarasota Pkwy, two miles south of its current northern terminus in south Sarasota at Palmer Ranch. Typically I bike to Dona Bay in Venice and back - an 18 mile round trip from my home. I know that's no big deal for serious bilkers whose treks of 30 - 50 miles are a piece of cake.

The Trail is paved and for the most part is shielded from civilization and if you go early enough, it's shaded from the sun by the trees on the trails east side. Occasionally you see a home, a golf green and plenty of farmlands and wetlands. Varied thick growth are on both sides and bridges over streams are along the way (North Creek & South Creek). Turtles and snakes are common especially during less traveled periods. Recently I saw a very large Banana Spider hanging from the North Creek Trestle and not far a Zebra Longwing butterfly hovered over some Butterflyweed flowers. On about one in ten trips you might see the less common Florida Fox/Black Squirrel in place of the usual grey variety. Recently a black squirrel sauntered nonchalantly along the trail oblivious to my presence as I passed him by. Then there are the song birds along route - Cardinals and Mocking Birds that serenade your passage especially in the AM. I was told, it isn't unusual to see a bobcat, panther or otter at dawn or sunset. Then in December there crossed right in front of me a Florida Panther. I should say, he casually meandered across the path, glanced at me and continued on his way. Unfortunatley I fumbled with my iPhone but didn't get it out in time. A woman passing from behind exclaimed "Was that a Bobcat?" "Actually a Panther" was my reply. Then only a week later what was scampering along the trail, but an Otter. That time I did get a couple picts of questionable quality. Cant wait for the next iPhone. Both incidents occurred south of 894 late morning.

During the summer rainy season when the sun is high and the culverts carrying the runoff are full, look carefully and you will see crawfish and small fish about 3" in size darting about. One place where this is quite common is the culvert behind the rest area at marker 894.

Every mile is marked with a granite obelisk. The numbers are in the 800's, beginning at Richmond the railroad northern terminus. You will also notice yellow ovals every .05 miles in the center of the roadway. The Milage indicated here is the distance to the US 41 bridge in Venice and to be used in emergency.

Also at every mile is an attractively covered shelter / rest area with a couple benches. Some have picnic tables. The shelter at CS Pkwy was donated by Rob & Susan Harlan in the hopes others would follow. No luck, so "stimulus money" paid for the rest. In 2013 there were Trail Heads erected along the way most with a water fountain. Also along the way about every two miles is an engraved metal plaque recounting a little history of the railroad, early settlers along its route and the surrounding, wild life and fauna. How many will you see? A few are pictured below.

WWII Army Ambulances

Highway route 681 overpass

Typical view along path

Bananas anyone? Oranges too.

Typical view along path

Atop Dona Bay Bike Bridge.

Venomous coral snake.

A Beekeepers Hives

Dona Bay

My wife, after some persuasion, started joined me biking the trail 6 months later. And much to our surprise on her inaugural journey we saw a pair Bald Eagles sitting on adjacent power poles at Central Sarasota Pkwy. Those same eagles must have a nest thereabouts, as on subsequent trips I've seen an immature eagle sitting on trees adjacent to the trail. Down the trail a bit near marker 97 we came across a Coral snake. Yes, venomous. I had never seen one before and assumed it was the "false" Coral snake or milk snake. If you come across one just remember "if red touches yellow it can kill a fellow".

Back to my first trip which wasn't without surprises. Just south of Central Sarasota parkway, on the east side, you'll often hear some heavy equipment. Searching for the sound, I noticed above the heavy growth some piled up WWII army ambulances. I couldn't believe my eyes. Seems there is a scrap yard there, that in my 20+ years in Sarasota, I never new about. And just further along, you see signs posted for a 10 acre horse ranch for sale. Hum......

From that day on every subsequent cycling trek, I saw something not seen before - a new and unusual tree or flowering plant, an opening in the foliage to a new vista. Even after a year while heading south, I noticed in the field to the east of the Trail approaching marker 896's rest area, an area beekeeper has set up his hives. Along its route there are is an occasional entrance to an adjacent neighborhood. Then there is that secret access path to Pine Ranch East Rd. and the entrance to back side of Oscar Scherer Park. Just past the park the Trail takes a left jog paralleling on original railroad trestle over south creek. You can even smell the old creosote. Looking south, high above is the overpass of route 681.

From here you cross the first road (Laurel**) since our entry point. A half a mile beyond is Dona Bay. Here to my amazement is an exclusive span for bikers and pedestrians to cross the bay, with lovely panoramas in all directions. I should point out that the pedestrian bridge is midway between between Laurel Rd and Colonia Ln. and a half a mile walk from each in case you want to drive down and take a look.

Robert's Bay

Robert's Bay is about a mile further from Dona Bay. Still further you'll come to the the US 41 bike / pedestrian over pass which officially opened November 2011. On the other side, you'll arrive at the Venice Railroad station. From here bikers can link up the Venetian Waterway Park (VWP) and Trail that parallels the Intracoastal Waterway and continues south to the Shamrock Park Nature Center. Or you can cross the Intracoastal Waterway on one of two draw bridges to the VWP island-side Trail and south to Caspersen Beach and Park on the Gulf of Mexico. See links below.

One of many prescribed burns. Click for more picts.

Throughout early fall as the rainy season comes to an end, one will often see billowing smoke in the distance from one of of the many controlled burnoffs of the Florida Scrub. The above is one such burnoff not uncomon you'll see in the drier months.

South Creek / Oscar Scherer.

Florida Scrub Jay.

Johnson Chapel / Albey Quarters.

Shalett Creek / The Cradle of the Ocean.

Typical shelter.

Laural Turpentine / Blackburn Sawmill.

Some Railroad History.

That be me at a rest stop.

The End of the Line of the Sarasora Legacy Trail: The Pedestrian Overpass at US41 Venice.
Shown understruction, November 2011.

June 2011 under construction

October 2011 almost ready.

The US41 Venice ByPass / Pedestrian Overpass opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony November 5th, and yes we were there. The Overpass was covered with wire mesh to prevent objects falling or being thrown to the roadway. Frankly it's less attractive than shown above. Just south of the overpass lies the Venice Depot where the festivities took place. We continued on a bit along the Venice Water Trail which parallels the Intercoastal Waterway and turned back for a 14 mile, wind in your face trip home.

In Venice, in addition to the town, there is a lot to see but it is a hodgepodge of connected trails and sidewalks some of which you'll have to use to cross the drawbridges leading to the beach and the waterways west side path. The Gulf beach beckons as do the waterway paths. Some parts are beautiful but many places are busy with traffic and in no way comparable to the Legacy Trail.

**PS. Above is one of our favorite places to hang out. It is now made accessible by taking a detour at Laurel Rd. That be the North Jetty at the Venice Inlet. Just head west on Laurel Rd and cross over US41 make your first left on Shore Rd which turns a couple times taking you to Abbey Rd. Turn right / west over the draw bridge. You are now at Nokomis Beach. Just south about a half mile is the Venice Inlet. Because of its deep water, the inlet is a high traffic area for boats passing to the Gulf. Here you'll find the "North Jetty Fish Camp". Basically it's an old Florida bait and tackle shop that includes, snacks, burgers and beer. The beach here is famous for its shark tooth festival in April. Lock your bikes and take a walk out on to the jetty, a favorite spot for coastal anglers. New restrooms are adjacent to the parking lot.

Friends of the Legacy Trail

Area Bike Rentals

e-mail -

A few other sites by Sandy Estabrook
Sandy's Spectacular Sarasota Sunsets
Guide to Abaco Bahamas
French Polynesia Impressions
Wilson On Lake Ontario Guide
Daisy Barn Camp Ground

The Sarasota Computer Doctor