Trail proposed in Collier County to help protect pedestrians, cyclists

A proposed trail in Collier County will help protect walkers and bikers – and make sure tragedy doesn’t strike again.

The Paradise Coast Trail is expected to be 70 miles long, and it will get people who walk, run or bike away from distracted drivers.

Avid cyclist Cristin Madden of Bonita Springs survived a devastating hit-and-run crash in Alva that claimed the life of her friend on March 14.

“I think about it every day,” she said.

The two were hit from behind, killing 64-year-old Debra Purcaro and gravely injuring Madden.

“It’s just a miracle that I’m doing as well. Really for the kind dive at the earth headfirst … I should be dead.”

More than 30 years ago, Michelle Avola-Brown, executive director of the Naples Pathway Coalition, also had a close call while biking. She was hit head-on.

Credit: Naples Pathway Coalition

“But fortunately I’m here to tell the story about it, and to many people, something like that happens and they’re a statistic,” the Lehigh Acres resident said.

She hopes the Paradise Coast Trail will stop more people from becoming a statistic. The trail would connect Naples, Ave Maria, Immokalee and beyond.

“Seventy miles of paved trail separated from the roadway, so not just a bike lane where you’re worried about cars coming behind us,” Avola-Brown said.

The Florida Department of Transportation approved a yearlong study of the project. Engineers will collect data, do public outreach and help move the project into the building phase.

Collier County Commissioner Penny Taylor is all for it.

“So I think our awareness at least in Collier County is that this is something worth spending money on, but of course, the devil’s in the details. How much? How can we offset this with grants?”

The price tag is between $25 million and $35 million. Madden said it’s money well spent.

“There’s no place for people to go to feel safe and that’s really what we need.”

There will be a ride of silence on May 19 to commemorate cyclists killed in crashes. Riders will meet at 6 p.m. at Cambier Park in Naples.

If you have any information on the driver or the crash that killed Purcaro and seriously injured Madden, call Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers at 800-870-TIPS.

Reporter:Rachel Cox-Rosen
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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