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Springs Path to Conservation Area Planned

July 6, 2008

By Jonathan Del Marcus, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Jul. 6–A planned trailhead and parking lot will provide convenient access from Coral Springs to a vast Everglades conservation area.

The joint venture between the city and Broward County will provide an access point near the intersection of West Atlantic Boulevard and the Sawgrass Expressway, where a dirt path now extends just beyond city limits.

Plans for the Atlantic Boulevard Trailhead project include a paved two-lane road that will lead to a parking lot and access to the conservation levee and multi-use trail network used for bicycling and walking, as well as canals for fishing and canoeing. The 17-space parking lot will include two handicapped spaces, said Mark E. Horowitz, the bicycle/pedestrian coordinator for the county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Currently, the nearest legal access points to the conservation area are at Markham Park in Sunrise and the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge in unincorporated Palm Beach County, he said.

City commissioners recently agreed to provide $215,000 from capital funds during the next two fiscal years to help the county complete the trailhead through a private contractor.

“We look at it as being a huge plus for our community with people having access to the Everglades for bicycling, hiking and walking,” said Rick Engle, Coral Springs’ parks and recreation director.

From the Atlantic Boulevard Trailhead, those wishing to bicycle long distances could peddle through the approximately 45 to 50 miles of multi-use pathway along a canal network loop leading to Lake Okeechobee and about 75 miles of pathway leading to Everglades National Park in Miami-Dade County, Horowitz said.

“This is fantastic. This is one of the only areas where you can bike away from cars and really have a long-distance ride. I think the community will really be surprised at how much it is used,” said Kerry Kuhn, an obstetrician/gynecologist who lives and practices in Coral Springs and who serves on the county’s bicycle/pedestrian advisory board.

Kuhn added that the ability to drive to the access point and park one’s car offers much greater convenience.

“People park there illegally now. It’s really needed,” he said.

The agreement also provides for the connectivity of existing bicycle paths within Coral Springs to the county’s planned Cypress Creek Greenway. The greenway project features an extensive network of connecting pathways reaching east to the Intracoastal Waterway. The majority of the Cypress Creek Greenway exists, but the planned sections through various Broward cities will provide full connectivity when completed.

“Our agreement is the county will design the greenways, will build the greenways, but only if the cities agree to maintain the greenways,” Horowitz said.

Coral Springs plans to include the bike paths along Riverside Drive, Southgate Boulevard, and Coral Ridge Drive to Atlantic Boulevard and then west on Atlantic to the Sawgrass Expressway as part of the Greenway project.

“The Cypress Creek Greenway is another positive behind the agreement. It gives biking access from the ocean to the Everglades,” said Engle, who worked with Horowitz to complete the government partnership agreement.

The cost of the Cypress Creek Greenway project is estimated at about $6 million. It will be paid for with road impact fees and gas taxes rather than property taxes, as will the county’s share of the Atlantic Boulevard Trailhead project, which is projected to cost about $600,000.

A construction bid should be awarded by the end of the year. The Cypress Creek Greenway and Atlantic Boulevard Trailhead projects are being combined for construction purposes and will likely be performed within two years, Horowitz said. The trailhead project could be completed sooner than other parts of the Cypress Creek Greenway.

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