Communities Worth Writing About

Hearts for BaghdadHave you ever been to a city that has a great bike trail? Last week we rode some of Orlando’s bike paths, including the West Orange Trail, It took us straight through Winter Garden, FL and what a transformation this town has made to it’s downtown. It is a thriving boom town and ties into its rich history, making for one of the region’s prettiest, and revitalized downtowns. Besides the economic benefits, we saw literally hundreds of people, cycling and walking. From families out for a stroll under the forested pathway to groups of bikers on road bikes training for the latest Iron Man, the place was abuzz with energy.

What makes for quality of life in your community?

Spending several weekends riding the trails in Orlando made me think about where I could ride back home. In Melbourne, just south of Cocoa Beach and Kennedy Space Center, we just don’t have safe places to ride. Brevard has an abundance of green spaces and public parks. But where can you and your kids hop on a bike and ride, without a trip in the car?

West Orange Trail

The Orlando systems are great because they connect residential, retail and professional areas. You can commute on your bike. The Heathrow area is another excellent ride. The Wekiva Trail connects Altamonte Springs, Longwood, and Lake Mary. One seven mile ride and we discovered the Heathrow Panera Bread. Coffee and a bagel made for the perfect halfway stop–and the trail keeps on going. Through office parks and posh neighborhoods, these trails do so much to create community and get people in shape and out of doors. Is this their well kept secret or is this idea too big for your home town?

This morning I took an epic journey from West Melbourne through historic downtown over the causeway and to the beach. About a fifteen mile trek, it takes about an hour or two at a leisurely pace–and a stop at Starbucks, then staring at the waves–the time it takes to sip a small coffee. As I brave the traffic, the bumpy cracks and non-existent bike lanes, I wonder just how much I take my life in my own hands.

Wekiva Trail

I made it just fine and a righteous ride it was, but Would I take my ten year old? No way. Not because he couldn’t make the distance, and no, not because he doesn’t want to. Traffic conditions make the effort of bringing the family in tow simply insane. As I think back to Winter Garden and their invigorated city center, I wonder what it would take for Melbourne and surrounding areas to catch the same spirit or see what I see.

So, calling all cyclists and downtown retailers–family members, fitness buffs and anyone who wants to improve the quality of life in Melbourne and the beaches. Contact me. Chat with your neighbors. Talk to some folks at the city or local reps and see what comes of it. For me it couldn’t happen soon enough.

West Orange Trail
http://www.orangecountyfl.net/cms/DEPT/CEsrvcs/parks/trails.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Orange_Trail

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