Hikers and Bikers Can Choose Among Paved, Unpaved Trails
By TOM PALMER
There are plenty of paved and unpaved paths all over Polk County for hiking and bicycling, and more may be on the way.
Some of the more heavily used links in the 250-mile trail network are paved trails that range from urban to rural settings.
The 29-mile Gen. James Van Fleet National Recreational Trail is the longest and one of the most popular trails in the county. This paved, abandoned railroad grade runs from Polk City to State Road 50 in Sumter County. It passes through the Green Swamp.
It connects south of Polk City to the 5.5-mile Auburndale-TECO Trail, which passes through the popular Lake Myrtle Sports Complex in Auburndale.
In urban areas, the emphasis has been on reducing conflicts between trail users and vehicles.
That effort was advanced this year with the construction of a trail overpass spanning Avenue T, Northeast in Winter Haven to connect to sections of the 3.2-mile Chain of Lakes Trail, which runs from Central Park in downtown Winter Haven to U.S. 17-92 in Lake Alfred. Over the past year the trail was continued for nearly a mile into Lake Alfred to Haines Boulevard. An overpass to get trail users across U.S. 17-92 is planned.
One of the more visible trails in Polk County is the 7.8-mile Fort Fraser Trail that runs along U.S. 98 between Winter Lake Road and State Road 60. A proposal for a trail overpass across a new truck bypass was proposed but never funded.
The Fort Fraser Trail network includes a side trail that links to the trail system at Circle B Bar Reserve. Future plans call for another trail that will run east across Saddle Creek south of Lake Hancock and along lands owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District on the east side of the lake.
There are a number of trails within cities, such as Lakeland's Lake-to-Lake Greenway Connector that exists in the center of the city but eventually will be extended to reach all the way to Tenoroc Fish Management Area.
Most of trails in Polk County are unpaved and located within a network of public and private conservation areas stretching from the Green Swamp to the Kissimmee and Peace rivers.
Both state parks in Polk -- Colt Creek State Park north of Lakeland and Lake Kissimmee State Park/Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park east of Lake Wales -- have extensive trail systems.
So do the various sites managed by the Polk County Environmental Lands Program, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the South Florida Water Management District, the Florida Forest Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the U.S. Air Force, The Nature Conservancy, Bok Tower and Green Horizon Land Trust.
For mountain bike enthusiasts, Polk County Parks and Natural Resources maintains a trail system at Loyce Harpe Park in Mulberry.
For more information about trails, check out the online recreational guides published by various sponsoring agencies and organizations. An overall view of Polk's current and planned trail system is available at http://heartland.floridatrail.org/docs/Take_a_Hike_Trails_Brochure.pdf
Created: April 20, 2013 11:59 p.m.
Modified: April 18, 2014 11:48 a.m.
Guide to Polk 2014
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