A key component of the Polk TPO’s Trail Master Plan is about making connections. Connections between communities, neighborhoods, schools, lakes, parks, natural areas and other trails of course. One of these connections outlined in the Trail Master Plan is the Fort Fraser Trail Extension - a proposed trail linking Lakeland’s Lake-to-Lake system of greenways and trails with the Fort Fraser Trail, Circle B-Bar Reserve, and Bartow. The numbers illustrate the need for this planned trail. In 2019, Lake Hollingsworth Trail had nearly 500,000 users and Circle B had approximately 260,000 visitors. Recent counts taken on the Fort Fraser Trail show nearly 500 people per day using this popular trail. These numbers are not surprising as this area is one of the most densely settled areas in Polk with approximately 75,000 people living within just three miles of the planned Fort Fraser Trail extension.
Its only about four miles between the Lake Hollingsworth Trail and Fort Fraser Trail/Circle B as the crow flies. Over the years, a number of trail projects have helped to shorten this trail gap. A trail was extended from the Fort Fraser Trail east along the south side of Banana Creek and into the Circle B-Bar Reserve. Additionally, Lakeland has extended trails south from Lake Hollingsworth along New Jersey Road and has nearly completed the Three Parks Trail connecting the three city parks of Curtis Peterson Park, Woodlake Park and Common Ground Park.
One the biggest challenges in extending the Fort Fraser Trail north into Lakeland has been the Polk Parkway and the associated cost of bridging this elevated limited-access highway. Also, north of the Polk Parkway, there is a lack of available right-of way for a trail adjacent to US 98. Several years ago the Polk TPO started looking west of US 98 to extend the Fort Fraser Trail with the hope of taking advantage of the wide sidewalks that exist on Lakeland Highlands Road under the Polk Parkway. Between US 98 and Lakeland Highlands Road it was determined a corridor would be needed to accommodate the trail extension and after a few years of planning and discussions, two land donations have helped make the Fort Fraser Trail Extension closer to reality. Sanlan RV and Golf Resort owner Ed Holloway was instrumental in this process, agreeing to provide a trail corridor for the Fort Fraser Trail Extension through the Resort and along the south side of the Polk Parkway. Likewise, Orlando Health is planning a new mixed-use medical facility at the corner of Lakeland Highlands Road and the Polk Parkway and has also agreed to provide a corridor for the trail so it can be extended west to Lakeland Highlands Road. From Lakeland Highlands Road the trail is planned to go north and under the Polk Parkway to Glendale Street where the trail will turn west and join the Three Parks and New Jersey Road Trails. Polk County will be taking the lead on this project and has started designing the trail corridor. In response to a request for construction funding made by the Polk TPO, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has programmed $2M in FY 2023/24 for the construction of the Fort Fraser Trail Extension. When the Fort Fraser Trail Extension is completed it will connect over 36 miles of contiguous paved and unpaved multi-use trails in the region. Connecting the cities of Bartow with Lakeland, Lake Hollingsworth with Lake Hancock, Common Ground Park with Circle B-Bar Reserve, and the Lake Hollingsworth Trail with the Fort Fraser Trail.