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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

New Ridge Scenic Highway Trail to Link Existing Trails to Form Network

Funding Approved, Design to Begin Soon, Construction to Follow

 

Last updated 7/8/2023 at 8:09am

Courtesy City of Lake Wales

The planned Ridge Scenic Highway Trail will connect the existing Lake Wales Trailway with the Park Avenue Trail, forming the spine of a growing network of interconnected trails spanning the city. Access to outdoor recreation is seen as a major contributor to the health and well-being of residents. The trail system is be funded primarily through Federal grants administered by the Florida Department of Transportation.

A new bicycle and pedestrian trail will continue the expansion of a growing network connecting neighborhoods across Lake Wales following city commission approval of an interlocal agreement with Polk County on Wednesday.

Creation of a functional network of trails is a repeated recommendation contained in the Lake Wales Connected plan, cited as a significant contributor to the health and well-being of residents.

The Ridge Scenic Highway Trail segment will extend 3,975 feet and connect with existing trails at two points, effectively linking the current trail system. The new segment will also serve as a connector for at least two future trail projects, forming the "spine" for the network. The grant will provide $940,840 in Federal funding with a required local match of $44,160.

The new segment will connect to the existing Lake Wales Trailway at Scenic Highway near the Albert Kirkland city gymnasium and the Lake Wales Little Theatre. From there is will run south and then east to connect with the planned Crystal Lake loop trail at Sessoms Avenue before continuing south along the lake to Central Avenue, intersecting the Park Avenue Trail in the process.

Another segment of the trail is planned to extend westward across Scenic Highway along Sessoms Avenue to link to the First Street bike track. That project is funded as part of the Lake Wales Connected project, with construction expected to begin in about a year.

A future phase of the Connected project will also see a bike track constructed on Central Avenue to connect to the south end of the Ridge Scenic Highway trail.

The interlocal agreement will permit Polk County to serve as the local administrator of the Federal funds that will be spent to create the new trail. A certified "Local Agency Program" administrator is required. Lake Wales is not LAP certified, so Polk County will serve as the pass-through agency.

Courtesy City of Lake Wales

A planned trail around the north side of Crystal Lake, pictured in this conceptual image, will further expand a growing network of trails in Lake Wales. This trail will connect and overlap with the Ridge Scenic Highway Trail at North Third Street near Sessoms Avenue.

The Polk County Transportation Planning Organization is directing the funds to the project in the upcoming budget year for the design of the trail. Construction funding is expected to follow in 2025-26.

A separate grant application is being submitted for another segment that would also connect the Lake Wailes Trail with the Lake Wales Trailway, a "rails-to-trail" project completed 20 years ago.

If funded it would provide potentially two connectons to the Trailway, and loop around Kiwanis Park to connect the former rail track with the lakeside Lake Wailes Trail.

That project would complete a multi-mile looping trail within the city. A decision on the grant application is expected after October 1.

 

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