SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Residents from Sarasota to Venice enjoy riding and walking along the Legacy Trail. It stretches more than 18 miles and sees hundreds of thousands of users each year.
However, Sarasota County deputies say receiving calls for service along the trail is a routine thing for them, with the main concerns, including speeding along the trial, suspicious activity and homeless camps.
“Bicycles in excess of the posted speed limit of 15 mph, some folks are out there, going much much faster than that and making a more dangerous situation for everyone,” Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Donny Kennard said.
During this week, trail users might notice increased law enforcement visibility along the trail. Authorities are working to enhance safety and promote education to make the popular pathway safe for everyone.
Mounted Patrol, Homeless Outreach officials, and other units are taking part in the increased patrols, educating users and giving out warnings as needed.
“We are not doing this effort because there is a major issue; we are doing this operation to try to prevent things from going to a level where we are having to respond in a reactive manner,” the lieutenant said.
Locals we heard from expressed concerns surrounding speed on the trail. One bicyclist we spoke with said electric bicycles speeding by him have led to some close calls.
“A lot of them will cut you off very closely and they won’t yield to that 3-foot rule. They know there’s not really anybody patrolling out here on a regular basis,” Marc Jonas said.
Another man who lives near the trail told us he loves using the trail with his wife and enjoying the wildlife he sees along the way, but crime is a concern for him after hours.
“Our neighborhood has had some people go through here at night, just checking car doors to see if they’re unlocked and if they are, they rifle through and take what they can. I would imagine they are using the trail for a getaway, so that is a little bit scary,” Curt Leonard said.
So far this year, deputies have responded to more than 120 calls for service along the trail, and that’s only within the county’s jurisdiction. The trail also runs through the City of Sarasota and Venice.
“We are just trying to educate, enforce when necessary, and make the trail park safer for everyone. It is a great resource within the community, and we just want to promote safety and enjoyment of it,” Lt. Kennard said.