Editor, The Beacon:
Greg Heeter’s recent Guest Commentary “Riding a bike is risky in DeLand” really struck a chord … or rather, a pedal with me.
Our small-town community has so many charming things — quaint Downtown untainted by big-box stores, world-class music at Stetson University, engaging exhibits at the Museum of Art – DeLand, festivals galore, nearby springs to dip in or view a manatee, and open-air Friday-night markets and jazz venues.
However, as Mr. Heeter points out, we will hardly be known for our safe biking and walking trails!
As he suggests, I too support a manager position for pedestrian and bicycling initiatives, as well as an advisory committee on the topic. We can’t drive our way out of this problem!
There are plans for a trail along Hwy 44 from Grand Ave. into downtown DeLand, however, it is unknown at this time if it will go directly through town or if it will go a block or so to the south as it nears the center of town and back a block or two to the north after it crosses over Woodland Blvd. The idea came from County staff members Timothy Bailey and Tadd Kassbeer and the two of them met with County Council Chair Jeff Brower, the City of DeLand’s Manager Michael Pleus and Mayor Christopher Cloudman, and FDOT’s Director of Transportation Operations and COO of SunRail Charles “Mike” Heffinger about the potential plans. It all is just getting started but it is very exciting. If it all works out, the trail into DeLand will connect to the Spring to Spring Trail that is west of DeLand and to the DeLand Amtrak / SunRail Station. This will also provide connectivity to the City of DeLand’s trail system. This link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-XX9b9HNMI will take you to a Volusia ECHO meeting where at the 1:44:00 point in the video Mr. Tim Bailey, who is Volusia County’s Parks, Recreation, and Culture Director provides details about recent public meetings that were held and a recent public survey that was done pertaining to trails. I am very pleased with the forward thinking of the County’s staff who came up with the concept of a trail along Hwy 44 into DeLand and with County Chair Jeff Brower, the City of DeLand’s Manager Michael Pleus and Mayor Christopher Cloudman. I should also mention Maggie Ardito, Pat Northey (AKA Trails Queen), and Dr. Wendy Anderson and their advocacy for a safe trail into downtown. And I shouldn’t leave out County Council At Large Member Jake Johansson who took the time to meet with a group of Volusia’s Rail and Trail advocates.
If the proposed plan, that is just in its infancy, all comes together it will beautify the Hwy 44 entrance into the City from the west, it will provide a much safer way to travel in vehicles, on foot, and on bicycles. It will also open up another form of tourism into DeLand, it will help bring people in and out of town to the Amtrak / SunRail station, and it will help transform DeLand in a very positive way.
Again, the proposed plan is not just about creating a trail. It is about enhancing all aspects of the corridor into DeLand from the west and creating a safer and more efficient environment for a variety of transportation options. It also fits into the State’s, County’s, and City’s safer streets programs. I should note, there is also talk of possibly continuing trails all the way out to the Volusia County Fairgrounds and beyond creating connectivity to the much larger SunTrail network of trails in the future.