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The City is proud to announce the designation of Winter Haven as a Trail Town through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Greenways and Trails.
According to the Office of Greenways and Trails; “A Trail Town is a vibrant destination where people come together. It a place where trail users can venture off a hiking, biking equestrian or paddling trail to enjoy the amenities and unique heritage of the community, benefitting the town economically and socially”.
Winter Haven has the distinction of being one of only 13 Cities in Florida to have received the designation. Winter Haven’s trail network spans over 14 miles and includes an interconnected system of parks, neighborhoods, schools, community destinations and downtown. Our exceptionally local culture is a key part in becoming a Trail Town. Our Downtown is the core of our Trail system and includes many shops, restaurants, cafes, theatres, businesses, downtown living and other amenities.
Many special events and community celebrations take place each year in our parks and trail network. Our trail system started in the 1990s working with Office of Greenways and Trails to preserve the 3.2-mile stretch of the old CSX railroad up to Lake Alfred. This corridor is now the Chain of Lakes Trail which serves as the backbone of the City’s Trail Network. It also connects Winter Haven’s trails to the Lake Alfred Trail. The City is planning several more miles of trails in the future including complete street projects throughout the City, the Lake Elbert Trail, the Sapphire Necklace and more. The City is proud that one of our next major trails will be the Lake Elbert Trail.
A trail around Lake Elbert has been a vision within the Winter Haven Community for many years. A complete loop trail would be approximately 2.4 miles in distance. As part of the State Road 542/Dundee Road Improvements, 0.6 miles of this trail is already in place along the Lake’s southern shore. The remaining 1.8 miles along the eastern, northern, and western portions of Lake Elbert Drive will be a City Project.
The City started a property acquisition phase in early 2021. Throughout 2021 and into early 2022, the City worked with residents and completed all necessary acquisitions on a voluntary basis for a complete loop trail around the Lake. In early 2022, the City started final design of the project.
The tentative timeline for the project is as follows:
- Bidding the project in March 2023
- Pending review of the bids and award, construction is expected to commence in late spring/early summer 2023
- Construction is expected to last approximately twelve –eighteen months
The design includes a number of elements which will provide upgrades to the entire corridor. The Trail is generally six feet wide on the east side of the Lake and eight feet wide on the north and west sides. Additional upgrades within the corridor as part of the project will include:
- Storm water quality and quantity upgrades including:
- Upgraded storm inlets and pipes
- Shallow swale between roadway and trail (majority of corridor) to catch rain prior to reaching Lake Elbert
- Rain gardens at Polk State College and along Trail at Trailhead Area
- Upgraded water and sewer lines and connections
- Safety & traffic calming within the corridor will include:
- Three speed tables/raised pedestrian crosswalks
- All way modified stop at 11th Street NE and Lake Elbert Drive
- Roadway width narrowed from 24 ft to 22 ft (11 ft travel lanes)
- Addition of bike sharrows
- Pedestrian connection to Rotary Park along Avenue B NE
- Trailhead at Boat Ramp Area to include:
- On street parking
- Enhanced shoreline
- Single picnic tables
- Water fountain and other amenities
- The boat ramp will remain
- Repaving of the entire corridor
The construction project will bring disruption to the corridor from time to time. The City’s goal is to minimize these impacts. The contractor will be required to ensure that all residents have access to their driveways and lakefronts. The City and contractor will work to ensure that lakefronts are accessible throughout the project.
Trash, recycling and yard debris will operate as normal, but may take special coordination between the City and residents from time to time. Water and sewer service will be maintained throughout the project with the exception of occasional short outages to transfer services and hookup. Once awarded and a construction schedule is established, the City will host communication sessions. Additional information will also be provided to residents with updated construction information.
The City will maintain all new improvements within the corridor including regular landscape maintenance and trash removal. Repairs to the new trail, roadway, utilities, storm water infrastructure, landscaping and other improvements will also be the responsibility of the City.
Residents who live on Lake Elbert will be able to access their lakefront as they currently do whether for pleasure or maintenance, however parking will not be permitted on the trail or within the trail corridor. The Trailhead north of the existing boat ramp will provide some limited parking for access as well as passive park amenities such as a water fountain, picnic table and improved lakeshore.
For project information, please visit
Staff is available to individually discuss the project and may be contacted at LakeElbertTrail@MyWinterHaven.com or (863)-291-5656.