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$13.1 million state grant to help complete Archer Braid Trail expansion

Paul Johnson, an Alachua County resident, bikes through Archer Braid Trail on a Monday afternoon. (Noelimary Suarez/WUFT News)
Paul Johnson, an Alachua County resident, bikes through Archer Braid Trail on a Monday afternoon. (Noelimary Suarez/WUFT News)

The Archer Braid Trail is more than just a 12.3 mile path—it’s a lifeline to fitness, relaxation and community for Paul Johnson, a 58-year-old Alachua County resident.

Living right by the trail, Johnson’s daily rides have become an integral part of his routine, helping him stay active and connected to his surroundings.

Johnson has been biking his entire life, transitioning from motorcycles to bicycles after experiencing the dangers of motorcycling and the loss of some friends. “Biking relaxes me and makes me feel good,” he said. Each day, whether he’s heading west toward Archer or east toward Gainesville, his ride begins on the Archer Braid Trail.

The trail is not just about commuting to save gas and get exercise; it's also a source of discovery and joy for Johnson. Six months ago, while riding with his wife, Claire Johnson, 61, they stumbled upon a history museum and a farmer’s market in Archer on a Tuesday night. “We’ve gone back three times since,” he shared.

The Archer Braid Trail project, conceived about 20 years ago, is nearing completion with only the final bit, called the Kanapaha Hall section, still under construction.

Archer Braid Trail Extension Map (Courtesy of Alachua County)
Archer Braid Trail Extension Map (Courtesy of Alachua County)

On June 4, Alachua County announced a significant boost for the trail project: a $13.1 million grant from the state of Florida. The funding includes a $10.67 million grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Sun Trail Grant program and an additional $2.5 million from legislative appropriation.

This funding will enable the completion of the trail, extending its reach to nearly 10 miles from Southwest 91st Street to UF Health Shands Hospital. A key part of this expansion is the new 1.67 mile segment connecting Veteran’s Memorial Park to Celebration Pointe, bridging two previously separated sections of the trail.

“Rising construction costs, particularly for the elevated boardwalks, have also impacted the project's budget,” said Alison Moss, transportation planning manager for the department of growth management for Alachua County.

The new section will extend through the Kanapaha Lake and Preserve area. Due to frequent flooding in this wetland, significant portions of the trail will be constructed as boardwalks, contributing to higher project costs.

Part of the planned trail segment near the western edge of Lake Kanapaha. (Courtesy of Alachua County)
Part of the planned trail segment near the western edge of Lake Kanapaha. (Courtesy of Alachua County)

The trail aims to enhance quality of life by providing safe, traffic-separated routes for biking and walking, connecting key destinations like Celebration Pointe, Butler Plaza and the University of Florida. Moss explained that the trail has yet to plan for additional safety measures, such as a blue light system. “Such a system has not been scoped at this time,” Moss said.

“It will positively impact people's lives, providing people an opportunity to bike or walk,” said Moss.

Mary Fendrich, a 70-year-old runner who lives a quarter mile from the Archer Braid Trail, shared her enthusiasm for the recent funding allocated for the expansion. “It’s an easy way to get out and get some exercise without having to go to a gym. Anything that encourages more outdoor activity is a great thing.”

Construction plans are in progress as Alachua County finalizes the budget. Moss anticipates construction to start in 2025, completed by 2026. Final construction costs will remain uncertain until the project “goes out to bid,” said Moss, expected around mid-2025.

According to the grant agreement, work on the trail must start before June 20, 2026 and be completed by June 30, 2027, completing the entire trail.

Noelimary is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.