Alachua County plans multi-use trail for southeast Gainesville community
Grace Dunn reported this story for WUFT-TV:
Alachua County is planning a $2.8 million project to build a 10-foot wide, 3.34-mile multi-use path along the Kincaid Loop in Southeast Gainesville.
The loop, which comprises portions of Southeast 15th Street, Southeast 41st Avenue and Southeast 27th Street, has little pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. Combined with the cracked, bumpy pavement and blind hills and corners, it makes for a dangerous journey by bike or foot.
“We have a lot of people that ride on the road and there’s not enough space, so they have to contend with cars,” said Kathy Colverson, who lives in the nearby Live Oak Acres neighborhood. “I actually almost got hit one time.”
There have been two pedestrian and bicycle deaths in the last five years along the loop, county data show, and countless reports of accidents.
“This is largely a transportation safety project,” said Alison Moss, senior transportation planner for Alachua County. “It was identified because there is a lack of any facility for someone to walk or bike on large stretches of this project.”
On Saturday, the county held a community input meeting, asking for feedback on important decisions regarding the project. Topics of discussion included which side of the road the trail should be constructed, areas of particular safety concern, lighting issues and drainage.
The meeting saw an impressive turnout, with intrigued local residents packing the T.B. McPherson Center. Many were supportive of the trail.
“We live in an area where it’s incredibly beautiful,” said Bernie Colverson, Live Oak Acres resident. “You have a canopy of trees, it’s just fantastic. It’s a way of being able to lend itself to the people who use it.”
The proposed trail would run along Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park on Southeast 41st Avenue, on the southern edge of the loop.
“Since I live there, I bike, run and hike around a lot,” said Jonathan Mays, who lives on Southeast 41st Avenue. “The thought of doing this loop without traffic buzzing by you either way is nice.”
And while he welcomes the trail, Mays, along with others, expressed his concern for its proximity to the prairie, and the light pollution that it could bring.
“Bringing in more lights, I realize it’s great for safety, but it's also right by a really big environmental resource area,” Mays said.
However, light pollution should not be a problem, according to Jeff Hays, Transportation Planning Manager at Alachua County.
“There might be some lighting that’s necessary at some intersections, but it’s not typically a proposal to light the entire trail,” Hays said. “And that’s one of the things we wanted to get input on at this meeting.”
Following the meeting, attendees were invited to take part in a bike ride along the proposed path. Starting from the T.B. McPherson Center, Moss led several bikers on the ride, stopping at different points of interest along the way for discussion.
A majority of the group advocated for the trail to be on the right side, or outside, of the loop. Reasons included the concern of blind corners and numerous driveways along the inside of the road, as well as the steep slopes that would make construction difficult.
The new trail will run along the Kincaid Loop, starting from the northern Boulware Springs entrance on Southeast 15th Street. A separate project— from the City of Gainesville — could eventually meet the trail at its start. City officials are considering running a multi-use path to the city limit.
From there, the Kincaid Loop project will run south to the Paynes Prairie entrance on the corner of Southeast 15th Street and Southeast 41st Avenue, then west along Southeast 41st Avenue.
The final stretch of the project will be on Southeast 27th Street, from Southeast 41st Avenue up to Southeast Hawthorne Road.
While details are being finalized, construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2025. The county is eying a completion date in mid-to-late 2026.