Rick Gonzalez , left and Fay Paquette discuss finishing touches on a YMCA multi-use trail. A new 8-foot-wide walking/running trail through the woods on the south side of the Golden Triangle YMCA property, is nearly complete.The Tavares Kiwanis club and the Rotary Club of Lake County Golden Triangle have joined together on the project. Tom Benitez/Orlando Sentinel (Tom Benitez / Orlando Sentinel)
Elira Benavari, Correspondent
OCTOBER 5, 2015
TAVARES — A new way to get and stay healthy is poised to open at the Golden Triangle YMCA in Tavares.\
Members and area residents soon will be able to stroll a pedestrian path winding through some of the 15 acres of the woodlands adjacent to the property’s soccer fields and outdoor basketball courts.
The new eight-foot-wide, 1,500-foot walking and running trail through the woods south of the YMCA has been sponsored by the Tavares Safe Harbor Kiwanis Club and the Rotary Club of Lake County, Golden Triangle, which joined forces to create and manage the community project. The trail will take visitors through the natural habitat down a hill to Lake Elsie and then back up the hill to the soccer fields.
“We have been excited about it for quite some time and just needed to get all of our contractors together to get it off the ground,” said Ted Wicks, president of the Tavares Kiwanis.
Wicks, who owns Wicks Engineering Services in Tavares, said Rotarian Rick Gonzalez approached him with the idea for the project, and he found a surveyor to map the trail. Then, the two rallied local contractors and businesses to donate materials, manpower and equipment to lay 300 tons of crushed concrete. It is to be packed four inches deep to make the path smooth, safe and sustainable. Area Boy Scouts have volunteered to clear branches and lay sod along the trail edge once the concrete is laid.
“It would have probably cost between $20,000 and $30,000 without all of the help we have been given,” Gonzalez said. “It will be great for everybody to be able to take a walk or run in the woods and in the shade.”
YMCA director Tom Breck said the trail provides just one more way to get people out for a walk with a friend or family member and is “just the beginning” of plans to expand trails throughout the property. The YMCA also plans to make paddle boarding, canoeing and fishing available on Lake Elsie and to build a community garden to grow fruits and vegetables that may then be donated to area food banks.
“We want to create an environment to bring people outside to walk together and socialize together, to help the beginning exerciser and continue to get folks out of their houses and away from computers, television and cell phones. This isn’t something we want to profit on — it is to continue to connect kids, seniors and families.”
The trail is expected to open soon, and during the coming months, Breck said he and his visioning committee, made up of long-time community leaders and YMCA board members, will be meeting to discuss more plans for the outdoor property and the future of the YMCA.
“Our goal is to raise $5 million to transform this Y into a community hub and truly do what this Y is intended to do, and that is to bring our community together,” said Breck, who recently received a pledge for a $1 million donation from a single anonymous donor and hopes to have $2 million raised by January.
Once complete, the trail will be open to anyone during YMCA hours.