Greenway trail from zoo to central Naples to get under way soon

David Albers/Staff 
 -  Chicago native Alan Ryker, 69, first moved to Naples to be a seasonal resident in the 1990s. Now as a full-time resident, Ryker serves on the Naples Pathways Coalition and chairs the Community Services Advisory Board. He's on the advisory board for the Community Redevelopment Agency and the board of the Southwest Florida Preservation Trust, which is championing the Gordon River Greenway.

Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

David Albers/Staff - Chicago native Alan Ryker, 69, first moved to Naples to be a seasonal resident in the 1990s. Now as a full-time resident, Ryker serves on the Naples Pathways Coalition and chairs the Community Services Advisory Board. He's on the advisory board for the Community Redevelopment Agency and the board of the Southwest Florida Preservation Trust, which is championing the Gordon River Greenway.

Map of new pedestrian bridge across the Gordon River

Map of new pedestrian bridge across the Gordon River

A scene along the Gordon River. A trail called the Greenway is planned along the river.  Michel Fortier/Staff

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER // Buy this photo

A scene along the Gordon River. A trail called the Greenway is planned along the river. Michel Fortier/Staff

— A Collier County nature trail that’s been decades in the making soon will be on its path toward completion.

The Gordon River Greenway will stretch two miles from Golden Gate Parkway toward downtown Naples, ending at Central Avenue. The overall project, which seeks to create 124 acres of nature trails when complete, has been in the works since the 1980s.

Once construction starts on the new $8.9 million segment, probably later this month, it will be completed in about 14 months, said Peg Ruby, a Collier County Parks and Recreation spokeswoman.

The first section of the Greenway opened in 1992, with a 1.5-mile paved loop trail adjacent to Naples Municipal Airport, running along the eastern edge of the Gordon River. The first trail, a popular bicyclist route tucked away from vehicle traffic, is reopening after it was closed in February to remove invasive plant species, including Australian pine.

The second phase was to get under way Thursday until showers delayed the groundbreaking ceremony near Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens.

“It’s just going to be way too wet there, so we’re going to reschedule it in the next couple weeks,” Ruby said.

Construction of parking to share with the zoo is to begin this summer on a parcel off Goodlettle-Frank Road that is now a grassed section of the Naples Zoo, Ruby said.

The lot will create about 600 parking spaces for the zoo, Greenway Park and overflow parking for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Next in the construction plans will be paved pathways and the main attractions of the Greenway.

The Greenway is taking advantage of the natural beauty along the Gordon River in one of the last unspoiled areas of urban Naples, Ruby said in a prepared statement.

Paved pathways will weave among mangroves and other native plants with wildlife viewing stations, decorative bridges, benches, educational signs and interpretive graphics along the way. The Greenway will include restrooms and other amenities.

There will be access to the Greenway through the Naples Zoo and Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

The 12-foot-wide pathways and 10-foot-wide elevated boardwalks will accommodate walkers, hikers, joggers, cyclists, in-line skaters and skateboarders, county officials said.

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The pathways and boardwalks will be wide enough for people pushing baby carriages or walking dogs, as well as for individuals in wheelchairs.

“Greenways are attractive spots for birders, nature photographers and other artists, environmental and ‘greening’ enthusiasts, and travelers seeking new trails to explore. The greenway will also provide canoeists and kayakers with a new landscape to explore from the Gordon River,” Ruby said.

One of the final aspects in this second phase of the project will be the creation of the new entrance road to the zoo, she said.

“Effort has been made to diminish the impact on the zoo, especially for their high season January 2014,” Ruby said.

The project is paid for through the Naples Zoo, Conservation Collier and the Collier County Parks and Recreation budget.

Collier commissioners approved this phase of the project in February, awarding the contract to Manhattan Construction.

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