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That doesn’t mean there weren’t challenges, however. Designing around wetlands and wildlife was a big factor to consider when it came time to construct the trail. In fact, gopher tortoises, had to be protected during this process. “We didn’t end up having to relocate any gopher tortoises and we avoided wetland impacts, which was a good thing for the environment,” Myers said. Coordinating trail design and construction efforts with the FDOT structures office was also a challenge. The design team had to systematize multiple projects at once, including the design of the two pedestrian bridges that were built as part of the trail, as well as coordinate a midblock crossing of a four-lane divided highway. “With the trail crossing a roadway with posted speeds of 55 miles an hour, the midblock crossing had to be up to the latest DOT standards,” Myers said. This required that a HAWK (High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk) signal be installed to increase pedestrian safety; when a pedestrian pushes the crosswalk button, a flashing yellow light that turns to solid yellow and then solid red signals traffic to stop. One of the more complex efforts was the collaboration needed with the geotechnical engineer regarding the soils underneath the trail. “Pesticides and arsenic were used back in the day to keep the weeds from growing near the train tracks,” Williams said. “With this trail being built on a railbed, we had to coordinate with FDOT’s environmental office so the arsenic wouldn’t potentially spread when it came time to dig up the soil.” But the benefits of the trail replacement have far outweighed any challenges. “There are many health and economic benefits when it comes to building a trail,” Myers said. “But there is also a huge community benefit. Once the trail is completed, there can be any number of planned events by the community – trail rides or trail runs, which bring people from across the state. It helps people get out and be active.” The completion of the Palatka-to-St. Augustine State Trail has been a much-anticipated event for not only recreational users, but also for Myers. “It will be rewarding to see a long project – both in length and time – come to completion,” he said. After almost 13 years in the making, Williams shares that sentiment. “We are getting close to completing the last segment,” Williams said. “Finishing the trail will feel like quite the accomplishment.” AyresAssociates.com │15