70-mile ‘Paradise Coast Trail’ could be coming to Collier County

Published: January 24, 2022 6:46 PM EST
Updated: January 26, 2022 10:21 AM EST

A 70-mile path known as the “Paradise Coast Trail” could be coming to Collier County. Leaders say they want to make sure everyone has a safe place to bike and walk.

You can head to Immokalee and Ave Maria or Bonita Springs if the trail is built. But, most notably for those in Collier County, they’d be walking and biking far away from the dangerous major roadways.

We’ve all been there – when we’re driving, and a bicyclist is going in the same direction, just yards ahead. Doesn’t that make you nervous? Well, those nerves often aren’t even half of what the bicyclist feels.

Tommy McVean is a bicyclist and describes his close calls with drivers. “All the time. All the time. Just got to be very defensive and very careful,” McVean said.

This is why McVean does his 20-mile ride three times per week at the Gordon River Greenway. “It’s so much safer,” said McVean.

Safety is a top priority for Michelle Avola-Brown, who is the executive director of the Naples Pathway Coalition. She helped create the idea for this 70-mile safe haven trail for walkers and bikers. It has been dubbed the Paradise Coast Trail.

Avola-Brown came up with the idea after having her own scary experience. “I thought that I had time to cross my foot slipped off the pedal, and I nearly fell. I managed to not fall, but an oncoming car hit me, and I flew across the road bounced and dinged up most of my face and my hip and my elbow,” she said. Now, Avola-Brown wants to make sure nobody else has to live through what she did.

She says the $35 million+ pricetag for the Paradise Coast Trail is well worth it. “It’s going to be incredible to have a safe trail that’s going to be paved 10 to 12-foot-wide just for walking, running, biking, pushing kids in the stroller walking your dog just enjoying the beauty without fear of automobile traffic,” said Avola-Brown.

Alexandra Barakos and Joann Dellavope from Naples say they love the idea. “We enjoy this walk very much, and I think having an extra 70 miles would be amazing and an asset to Naples,” they said.

“Great, I hope in my lifetime I get to see it,” said McVean.

The goal is that having this trail will stop at least some bicyclists from riding along busy roads.

On Wednesday, Jan. 26, you can learn more about the project and get a chance to weigh in about it during a Naples community meeting. The meeting will be at the River Park Community Center, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Following that meeting will be a 30-day public comment period, ending on Feb. 25. And for those that can’t attend the meeting, there will be a virtual meeting on Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. you can visit this website to register for the virtual session.