18 Apr SMALL STEPS LEAD TO BIG CHANGES FOR THE LUDLAM TRAIL

The Ludlam Trail has a storied history and a bright future – though still many years, permits and dollars away from becoming a full-fledged reality.

Its biggest champions see the former railway line becoming a six-mile path linking Downtown Kendall and Miami International Airport. They envision commuters taking it to work, kids riding it to school, and locals connecting to a 30-mile network of linear greenways in the works called The Miami Loop.

Faced with the daunting task of getting it all done, members of The Friends of the Ludlam Trail said they had a choice: spend years going through the byzantine process of building it out, or break it down into pieces and allow people to enjoy the trail in the interim, said Tony Garcia, chair of the Green Mobility Network, which organizes the Friends group. They chose the latter.

“The normal paradigm is let’s sit around for the next 10 years and do a master plan and talk about it and have meetings about it – and then eventually build the $100 million Cadillac version of a project. But I don’t want to wait until I’m 60 to see that happen,” said Garcia, who is 35. “We wanted to jumpstart the conversation, and get people out there to use the trail in the short term while the long-term planning and construction takes place.”

A few years ago, while the trail was in its early stages and conversations were heated as to how much development would be allowed along the path, the Green Mobility Network took the first step by applying to the Public Space Challenge. It won $2,500 to place wayfinding signs along the trail – the first funding the Friends group received, Garcia said. Like many other Challenge winners, they won to make progress on a small part of a larger project.

The signs, in both English and Spanish, tell users how far it is from where they stand to another point of interest – be it the Lincoln-Martí Schools or University of Miami. The Network saw the signs as an advertisement, a way to prod people into leaving their cars and eventually hitting the trail.

“People who use cars to commute don’t realize it’s a 10-minute walk or bike ride to get to these main destinations people go to all the time,” said Eric Katz, a Green Mobility Network board member.

Since the organization applied to the Challenge, the Ludlam Trail project has progressed. Residents, officials and the Florida East Coast Railway, which now owns the strip of land, it agreed to just how much development will be allowed along the trail. (The answer: it’s limited to the four major intersections, or along about 25 percent of the trail, Garcia said.) Meanwhile, the Railway has invested $200,000 to make a temporary trail on the site, and the Friends hope to have an interim trail officially open to the public by the end of this year. Miami-Dade County is also in negotiations with the railway to purchase the land for the trail.

Last month, 60 volunteers came out to hike the trail’s northern swath and help install wayfinding signs. “We had teachers out there putting signs in front of their own schools. They are great conversations starters,” Katz said.

Learn more about the Challenge in Stuart Kennedy’s blog post. Submit your idea by April 21, 2016 at ideas.ourmiami.org.

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