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Extension of the Archer Braid Trail connects to a bigger community

Robert Wright (right) and Robin Raineri (left) take on the Archer Braid Trail on a Wednesday morning together. (Bianca Papa/WUFT News)
Robert Wright (right) and Robin Raineri (left) take on the Archer Braid Trail on a Wednesday morning together. (Bianca Papa/WUFT News)

Ninety miles.

The 89-year-old man averages this distance on his purple tricycle in the blazing Florida heat six days of the week. This man is Roger Wright.

Wright has been club cycling for more than 75 years. When he moved to Gainesville from Rhode Island in February 2020, he joined the Gainesville Cycling Club, an organization that connects a community of cyclists throughout the county with more than 15 bike groups.

Moving to a new place at the beginning of COVID-19 was challenging, but Wright was happy to find himself living only two miles from the Archer Braid Trail. And, to Wright’s excitement, plans were approved on Feb. 28, 2023 to expand the trail by 0.4 mile into the heart of the City of Archer.

“The opportunities there are for people to commute into the university and other parts of town open up new ways to navigate in the county,” Wright said.

The trail currently runs more than 6 miles from the Water Tower Trailhead in downtown Archer through the unincorporated area to allow travel between residential developments, the University of Florida, other destinations beyond the urban area and soon into vital parts of the city of Archer.

Since being ranked the highest priority bicycle-pedestrian project in 2004, the trail has been developed between Archer and Gainesville through various projects that expanded it into Celebration Pointe and the University of Florida. The newly approved expansion into the City of Archer furthers the vision Alachua County has had for the trail since the beginning.

“I think it will help highlight the Archer Braid Trail as a whole and encourage others to use the trail to go to the farmers market and other community events that are located on the railroad depot,” said Alison Moss, senior transportation planner in the department of growth management for Alachua County.

The Archer Braid Trail is a part of the SUN Trail Network which is a statewide system of high-priority paved trails for bicyclists and pedestrians. The expansion hopes to improve the transportation safety for bicycles and pedestrians in the area, bring more people into the community of Archer and increase the bicyclist community in the county as well as in the state of Florida through the SUN Trail network.

“The idea is to stitch together the whole region and the 0.4 miles is helping make that connection,” Moss said.

The extension of the trail will connect the Archer Historical Society Railroad Museum to the existing trailhead. The Railroad Museum is housed in the historic Seaboard Air Line depot and is a vital part of Archer’s history and important to its residents. The Railroad Museum is also home to community events such as the farmers market and live music venues.

Tracy Hisler-Pace, the Communications Manager of the Florida Department of Transportation, said it will connect to the existing trail at SW 75th Terrace and extend all the way to SW 41st Boulevard allowing this continued connectivity through the state of Florida.

“By moving the trail into the depot and historic district it would provide more of an opportunity for economic development in the city of Archer,” Alachua County Commissioner Mary Alford said.

Plans to begin building this project are currently underway while Alachua County works out the budget, availability of contractors and mitigates things with the City of Archer. As stated at the county commission meeting on Feb. 28, the project has been given $805,882 by the SUN Trail Network to start. Alford predicts the building will start in the next year and a half.

“We want to use the money in a smart way and bring the public what they want in a timely way,” Alford said.

Yet, not everyone views Archer Braid Trail to be the most exciting trail in Alachua County. Charlie Courtney, a member of the Gainesville Cycling Club, rides the trail regularly and finds it good for commuting, but said its location being next to the highway puts it at a disadvantage among other trails.

“It isn’t a pleasant trail to ride because you have all the noise and road noise and that sort of stuff,” said Courtney.

On the other hand, Bill Anderson, another member of the Gainesville Cycling Club, said the Archer Braid Trail is the reason he bought his house. Living by the trail makes it easier for him to commute when he goes out at rush hour, helping him avoid the busy roads with heavy traffic.

As a member of the community and living in Haile Plantation near Gainesville, the recently approved extension has a direct impact on him.

“The extension is nice because it allows people to see some of the history of the town,” said Anderson, who is just 0.3 mile from the trail.

With this extension, the hope is to connect the communities in Alachua County all together as well as with the state of Florida. Despite the changes that are in the works, Wright plans to continue to ride the Archer Braid Trail six days a week enjoying the environment and ease it provides him.

“Old cyclists never die, they just spin out,” said Wright.

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