Five-mile ‘fitness trail’ in West Kendall gets okay

West Kendall has begun a “greenway” of its own. While East Kendall continues to mull the future of its controversial “Ludlam Trail” on the abandoned Floridea East Coast Railroad right-of-way, District 11 Commissioner Juan Zapata has moved to increase the length of a West Kendall “Fitness Trail” paralleling SW 157th Avenue from two to five miles.

With an allocation of $835,000, an existing pathway from Sunset Drive (SW 72nd Street) to SW 59th Terrace will stretch northward an additional three miles to Bird Road, creating what Zapata characterized as a new “linear park.”

While not providing any additional details of its potential development beyond a hiking or biking path, Zapata said, “I found out the space was going to be underutilized and was just going to be a patch of grass.

“We were committed to adding usable green space and it was obvious to us that we could create a linear park. This would also be a big step forward in connecting our parks and beautifying the 157th Avenue corridor,” he added.

As a linear park, the trail will “enhance SW 157th Avenue as a major boulevard while encouraging fitness and improving safety for residents of the West End,” he added. “This will add an additional two miles of bike path to the exiting three miles in our community, a big move forward.”

Since taking office, Zapata has moved in several directions to pinpoint West Kendall as a “destination point” on the county map, including new planning for Kendall Drive along a mile-wide corridor and extension of SR 836/Dolphin Expressway from SW 137th Avenue as far west as Krome (177th) Avenue. To fund the new SW 157th “Greenway,” county commissioners voted on Nov. 5 to use part of an overall $680 million designated under the Building Better Communities bond issue for improvements to neighborhood and regional parks, facilities and endangered land preservation.

Within that allotment are funds designated for “Local Park Improvements” in Unincorporated Miami- Dade County with an allocation of $3.5 million, now reduced to $2.6 million after commissioners earmarked $835,000 in “surplus funds” to finance the extended West Kendall trail.

In a discussion about the item before passage, director Jack Kardys said that his Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department “agreed with the modification because it made sense to connect parks with greenways.”

In addressing the commission, Kardys said his department had undertaken an assessment of the needs of local parks in District 11 before determining that a surplus in the $3.5 allocation could be used for the new West Kendall project, called “the SW 157th Avenue Linear Greenway” in the formal resolution adopted by the commission.

At the time, assistant county attorney Monica Rizzo advised that the bonds program included a specific line item for the Ludlam Trail project, with an allocation of approximately $1.6 million. Kardys noted that the state allocated approximately $3.4 million in 2013 for the Ludlam Trail land acquisition.

Commissioners had postponed action on proceeding with approving a land use change for the proposed Ludlam Trail project until early December.

In the discussion, Commissioner Javier Souto noted that the Ludlam Trail was “a great idea” to provide cyclists a way to travel between Kendall and Miami International Airport. He also urged the public to consider the former “Rails to Trails” program that converted railroad rights of way to bicycle paths through central and north Florida.

No time frame for acquisition and subsequent development of the West Kendall “greenway” was provided by Zapata immediately following the November action to acquire the additional three-mile path along SW 157th Avenue.

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