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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

Groundbreaking Effectively Starts Construction of Connected Plan

New Trail Will Provide First New Link in Major Effort to Link City Neighborhoods

 

Last updated 4/14/2022 at 3:03pm

A small crowd gathered Monday morning on Third Street near the shores of Crystal Lake to witness a historic moment for the city as officials formally broke ground for the long-anticipated "Park Avenue Trail." The location was perhaps an indication that the marketing name may not last long, as the trail will eventually encircle Crystal Lake and encompass parts of three streets and two parks.

Outgoing Mayor Eugene Fultz called the event "historic," noting that the $1.4 million phase one of the project will forever change the city's center, and undoubtedly the perceptions of visitors and residents..

The street where the ceremony took place, just east of the Lake Wales Public Library and the Woman's Club Auditorium, will be permanently closed to vehicular traffic to become part of the new pedestrian and bicycle trail network envisioned as part of the Connected plan. The trail will wrap both sides of the block. Adjoining Park Avenue will be narrowed to allow about half the street to be converted to a trail segment, to connect to both the Lake Wailes Trail and downtown services.

The Lake Wales Connected plan includes connections between existing, isolated trail segments such as the Rails-to-Trails lying north of Lakeshore Boulevard, as well as new trails that will ultimately connect to a county-wide trail network and link many city neighborhoods.

Other elements of the plan include major reconstructions of many blocks of city streets and the planting of hundreds of trees and other landscaping.

The new trail will be landscaped by city staff rather that the general contractor, a change that will save the CRA thousands of dollars.

The Connected plan is being funded by a Community Redevelopment bond issuance of some $18.5 million, which is secured by revenue flowing to the CRA through "tax increments." Those increments represent the increased valuations of property within the boundaries of the CRA district, and the improvements are expected to attract new investment to the area, further increasing the revenue stream.

 

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