KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – It’s been six years since the last time the City of Keystone Heights broke ground on a new project – long enough that workers had to spray paint new ceremonial gold shovels …
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – It’s been six years since the last time the City of Keystone Heights broke ground on a new project – long enough that workers had to spray paint new ceremonial gold shovels last week.
Keystone Heights council members joined others in a groundbreaking ceremony with those new shovels Oct. 19 at the location of a new trailhead for a bike path that will connect Palatka to Lake Butler.
The $280,000 trailhead located at 130 West Walker Dr. will contain a park complete with signage, a playground, bathrooms and solar-powered picnic tables for charging cellphones.
Nearly all of the 50 officials in attendance for the morning ceremony lauded the groundbreaking as a great opportunity for the city to bring in some much needed tourism dollars as well as a serve as a recreational area for residents and guests.
“We’re honored to have our own trailhead and we hope it makes a tremendous economic impact for the businesses downtown,” said Scott Kornegay, Keystone Heights city manager. “We’re excited to be able to offer an outlet for Keystone youth to come out and use the trail and give them additional things to do. We’re very excited about it.”
“It’s going to be a shot in the arm for Keystone businesses, too,” said Acting Mayor Steve Hart. “Especially the ones right in the vicinity, but if somebody had a bike shop or something like that, it’s going to be a ripple effect that we’re going to like.”
The city has divided the trailhead into three phases. Kornegay expects phase one to take roughly three months, but said there’s no real timetable on the other two phases considering funding has not yet been allocated.
The city owns the trailhead, but the state will own the trail as part the Rails to Trails program that aims convert unused railroad lines into bike trails that will eventually crisscross the state.
There are currently more than 700 miles of rail-trails in Florida, and another 431 miles of potential rail-trails.
Though still in construction, the multi-use, paved trail corridor stretches nearly 47 miles west of U.S. Highway 17 in Palatka to State Road 238 in Lake Butler. Along the way, the corridor extends through Putnam, Clay, Bradford and Union Counties.
Funding comes from the Preservation 2000 program through the Florida Greenways and Trails Acquisition Program. Lawmakers identified the corridor as part of the Florida Greenways and Trails program in 2007. The Florida Department of Transportation will build the trail in segments as funding becomes available.
There are roughly 19 miles of paved trails between Keystone Heights and Putnam County, with an additional 24 miles of trails still planned.
For Keystone Heights residents, the project brings some much-needed recreational space.
“I think it’s a good idea,” said Ann Eden of Keystone Heights. “Being that I’m on foot, I don’t drive, and I’m looking for stuff and a nice place to hang out, ride your bike, have some lunch and bring the kids…I think it’d be a welcome change.”