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Indian River County Planning is working with citizens to improve transportation connections between urban areas and rural areas, as well as providing linkages between urban areas and state parks, greenways, rivers, and wetland systems.

arrowThis project was nominated for a Planning/Design Award as part of the 2008 National Trails Awards, announced at the 19th National Trails Symposium in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

Indian River Greenways Plan seeks to improve transportation as well as recreation

 

The purpose of this effort is to develop a Greenways system for the Vero Beach and Indian River County, Florida. The Plan was led by the Indian River County Metropolitan Planning Organization (IRCMPO) in partnership with local communities and advocates. This plan is an important model because it connects innovative local greenway planning with regional, state and national initiatives. IRCMPO is coordinating its plans with the East Coast Greenway, the Florida Circumnavigational Water Trail, the Wabasso Jungle Trail, a proposed trail and mountain bike park at Vero Beach Airport, and the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails’ Statewide Greenways Plan.

photo of group with big model

Indian River County staff created a model of the proposed Vero Beach
Airport Loop Greenway to discuss the project with local leaders

It is important to note that the County has few existing paths or trails within its urbanized areas, a suburban growth pattern and a changing agricultural landscape. As Florida continues to grow, IRCMPO has taken a forward-looking approach to create new ‘trail oriented development’ opportunities for the future. The County hired project consultants Alta Planning + Design, Kimley-Horn & Associates, and CivaTerra to create the plan. The project team worked with a local advisory group representing a wide variety of trail interests, and the plan received significant support from local elected officials and trail advocates.

The Greenways Plan started with a Central County plan for the Vero Beach Area, and grew to include a second plan for the Northern part of the County, including the towns of Sebastian and Fellsmere and surrounding conservation areas along the Sebastian River, Blue Cypress preserve and Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. These plans will serve as a guide to the County for selecting appropriate areas for greenways, prioritizing projects, and funding, constructing, and maintaining the greenways. The plans define a system of greenways within Indian River County that will enhance multi-modal transportation, connect urban and rural areas, and increase recreation and conservation opportunities in the County.

For the purposes of this effort, greenways are defined as linear open space corridors with facilities for non-motorized travel, including walking, bicycling, running, horseback riding, and other uses. Trails are often developed within greenways to provide pathways for people to move from one place to another.

Photo of canal

Potential corridors may exist on lands controlled by the
Indian River Farms Water Control District

Trails can be made of a soft surface, such as native soils, or a hard surface, such as concrete or asphalt, depending on the intended use. The study area for this project is the Vero Beach and Central Indian River County area (portions of Indian River County that lie between the North and South Relief Canals, from the Atlantic Ocean to 82nd Avenue), and for the Northern County the planning area was extended to the Brevard County line.

The Indian River County Metropolitan Planning Organization (IRCMPO) recognizes the importance of providing transportation connections between urban areas and rural areas, as well as providing linkages between urban areas and state parks, water management areas, rivers, wetland systems, and other natural areas. One way to accomplish this is by providing a network of greenways that can serve as an alternative to on-road motorized travel. At the same time, retrofitting a greenways system in the existing built environment of Florida required a creative approach to multiple challenges. The planning team worked to resolve issues related to potential rail trail corridors, integrating trails into ongoing roadway projects, and coordinating with local water management agencies.

Opportunities and Constraints Identified in the Planning Process

The most significant issue is the lack of conventional rights-of-way for greenways in the project area. There are no abandoned railroads, accessible utility corridors, dedicated linear public rights-of- way or existing shared use paths in central Indian River County. In addition, greenways and trails are not included as corridors in the current County land use plan. Walking and bicycling are currently limited to existing sidewalks and roadways. These facilities are often limited and discontinuous.

Potential corridors may exist on lands controlled by the Indian River Farms Water Control District (IRFWCD), but only with the District’s approval. The District has not allowed public access to these corridors in the past. IRFWCD lands can only be considered as potential trail corridors under the following conditions:

Current and Future Projects

photo of boardwalk in wetland

field tour of new Sebastian River Greenway boardwalk

One successful early project was the creation of a historic bike/pedestrian route through the town of Sebastian along the Indian River. The project includes the installation of historic markers in a newly created historic district, as well as roadway and intersection improvements for pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition, the adjacent community of Fellsmere is actively working on a rail-trail project along the former Trans-Florida railroad, a project that connects to a major new planned development community, the county park/swimming pool complex and the Sebastian River Greenway.

These first-phase projects are showing that the planning process has resulted in real changes in the community. In the next few years, Indian River County will capitalize on additional opportunities presented in the plan. The efforts of IRCMPO and it’s partners will utilize a wide range of innovative trail planning and design solutions to help connect people and nature in the heart of Florida’s east coast.

A key to moving these projects forward is IRCMPO’s effort to coordinate funding through the Transportation Enhancement program. The plan included a prioritization matrix with defined "next phase" projects presented in detailed project description sheets that can be used for future funding applications. IRCMPO is working to advance a top priority project to create a loop shared-use path around the perimeter of the Vero Beach Airport. This project will combine creating a new path as part of the reconstruction of Aviation Boulevard, working with paths along existing water district maintenance roads around the airport, and providing a trailhead for access to the path and a potential single-track trail area for mountain biking – all in perimeter lands around an active airport.

 

For more information:

Indian River County Metropolitan Planning Organization
County Administration Building A 1801, 27th Street Vero Beach, FL 32960
Phone: (772) 226-1672

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