OSPREY — The first new stop station on Legacy Trail since it opened in 2008 was celebrated Friday with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“We want to thank the Friends of The Legacy Trail because without their help we wouldn’t have known to get involved,” said Howard Jelks, with the Jelks Family Foundation. “Without community support projects like this don’t get done. With you all matching what we were giving, it made the whole project come together.”
In 2018, the Jelks Family Foundation granted $22,000 to Friends to partially support a new landscaped stop station on the trail.
Matching funds from the Friends completed the needed support. David W. Johnston Associates, Landscape Architects, provided in-kind donations to help bring the rest area to completion.
Oscar Scherer State Park provided in-kind support during construction.
“As many of you know,” Jelks told a small crowd of 50, “my mother was very much a lover of nature and natural systems and she felt it was very important to keep people integrated in and around this area, so she would be very pleased to see that we have a place to take a break off the trail and learn a little bit about the plants that support wildlife in the area.
“My father is an avid railroad buff and he feels it’s very important for people to understand how the railroad helped shape our nation’s history,” Jelks said. “Our railroads helped unite us and make us a United States of America. This is a great opportunity to showcase the roll that railroads played here and keep a bit of history alive.”
Officials are calling it the South Creek stop station and learning area, located in the grassy area just north of the train trestle in Oscar Scherer State Park.
Darryl Alexis Lang, with Friends, came up with the idea for the new stop station. She started riding the trail about five years ago.
“I was surprised to find out the trestle next to it was 100 years old,” Lang said. “In Florida, that’s old. And then I discovered the trail was built on a restored railroad that was significant in the development of he Venice, Nokomis, Osprey and Laurel communities. The trestle is the only structure on the trail that has been preserved. We wanted to provide a place for users to not only relax but to learn about the history of the railroad and learn about Florida Native plants.”
Nichole Rissler, director of Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, announced a bench had been placed next to an oak tree that will eventually provide shade. It was dedicated to Allen and Mary Jelks.
“It’s been an exciting week for Legacy Park,” Rissler said. “On Wednesday and Thursday we held community meetings for the Legacy Trail Extension. I’m excited to cap off the week this this exciting opening. This wonderful trail destination celebrates the history and natural beauty of the trail.”