Clear blue skies and gentle breezes beckon us to be outdoors. And, what a better way to enjoy a beautiful day than with a bicycle ride to the beach!
“Want to ride the bikes to the pier?” I ask my daughters and their friend. Almost instantly, they have swimsuits in hand and race for the bicycles. Armed with sunscreen and water bottles, I grab the helmets and we’re off for an adventure on the Venetian Waterway Park.
We enter the trail through Michael Biehl Park at the corner of U.S. Business 41 and Tampa Avenue. Set against the backdrop of a panoramic mural by local artist BJ Carson, the park also serves as an access point to the Venetian Waterway Park.
We begin our trek at the trailhead adjacent to the North Bridge and head south. Completed in 2007, Venetian Waterway Park connects downtown Venice with neighborhoods, parks and schools, and is the area’s first bicycle/pedestrian link to the Gulf of Mexico. The scenic 8-foot-wide paved path is frequented by walkers, joggers, cyclists, and in-line skaters.
About Venetian Waterway Park
Venetian Waterway Park is a result of the efforts of Venice Area Beautification, Inc. (VABI), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission to enrich the community with enhancement projects throughout the Greater Venice area. VABI was founded in 1990 by Venice Chamber of Commerce to address various landscape beautification projects along U.S. Highway 41 in Venice including renovation of the old train depot and construction of a linear trail along both sides of the Intracoastal Waterway.
About 10 miles of the Venetian Waterway Park is now open for walking, jogging, in-line skating and bicycling (bike helmets and protective gear are recommended). Venetian Waterway Park connects to the Legacy Trail, forming a 22-mile non-motorized trail from Venice to Sarasota. The trails are the backbone of a network of multiuse recreational trails planned for Sarasota county.
Venetian Waterway Park is pet-friendly. Amenities include park benches, picnic shelters, grills, litter receptacles and dog clean-up stations. Additionally, a kayak launch is located near Caspersen Beach pavilion on Red Lake.
The volunteer Trail Blazer Bike Patrol, sponsored by VABI, the Venice Police Department and Sarasota County Parks and Recreation, bicycle the Venetian Waterway Park daily. Another group of volunteers, the Pepper Patrol, meet weekly to mulch, water, and weed along the walkways.
Parking on the west (island) side of the Intracoastal Waterway can be found at the trailhead at Tampa Avenue, the east end of Miami Avenue near the Venice Avenue bridge, on Golf Drive at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, the east end of Airport Avenue near the Circus Bridge, and at Caspersen Beach Park. On the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway, visitors can park at the Marina Park and Boat Ramp, the historic Venice Train Depot, and Shamrock Park and Nature Center.
For more information and a map of the park, or to learn how you can volunteer, contact Venice Area Beautification, Inc. at 941-207-8224 or visit www.vabi.org.
About Legacy Trail
In 2004, Sarasota County purchased the former CSX Transportation railroad corridor connecting Sarasota to Venice for a multiuse recreational trail. The purchase was accomplished in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land
conservation organization. Opened in 2008, the 12.4-mile-long and 100-foot-wide corridor stretches from Palmer Ranch in Sarasota to the Venice Train Depot. It is at the Venice Train Depot that Venetian Waterway Park begins its 5 mile journey south along the Intracoastal Waterway to Shamrock Park in south Venice.
The Legacy Trail was named to reflect the heritage of the former railroad corridor and the trail’s lasting legacy for future generations. The trail hosts 15 areas to stop, rest, learn about its history or enjoy the natural beauty surrounding the trail.
The rest stops include seven trailheads, which offer access points with free parking. The trailheads are located at Potter Park in Sarasota, Bay Street Park and Oscar Scherer State Park in Osprey, Laurel Park in Laurel, Nokomis Park in Nokomis, Patriots Park and the historic Venice Train Depot in Venice.
Cyclists and pedestrians are encouraged to follow a detour until the bridges over Dona Bay and Roberts Bay are complete. Use Laurel Road, Albee Farm Road and Bird Bay Drive, crossing U.S. Highway 41 at the Bird Bay traffic light. Go over the North Bridge, then over the Venice Avenue Bridge, and under to the train depot.
For more information about Legacy Trail, visit www.scgov.net/legacytrail.
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