I would like to start by acknowledging all of the new members of Friends of the Bonita Estero Rail Trail, (BERT).  Welcome and thank you so much for joining!   It’s so great to read the stories and words of encouragement from our new members.   Friends of BERT has grown at a faster pace than ever since our last update: 20 members per day! We are over 1,600 members with a goal of 5,000 members before the end of this year. Can we do it? Just continue to get the word out and send folks to https://bonitaesterorailtrail.com/  BERT has now received endorsements from  eight HOA Boards with many more in the works.  Please let us know if you are interested in helping with this effort for your community.   

Our collective voice is growing.   A recent email campaign from Friends of BERT  resulted in over 300 emails received by Bonita Springs City Council members in support of BERT.    I am sure Estero Village Council members received similar numbers of emails from you as well.   One council member told me she was impressed with the content of the emails because each email was well-written and personal. Your efforts are making a big difference in swaying the opinions of government officials to support the Bonita Estero Rail Trail project!   

I also wanted to give an update on the January 18th  Bonita Springs City Council meeting. The room was packed with Friends of BERT supporters. Thank you to those who could make it, it makes a big difference.   A Feasibility Study presentation was given by Don Scott and Ned Baier of the Lee County MPO, who teamed with Charles Hines of the Trust for Public Lands.  They did a great job of updating the Council on the project.   Numerous Friends of BERT also expressed their support for the project during the public comments portion of the meeting.   Our friends from The Vines also expressed support for the project, but simultaneously requested the Council to vote on a resolution that they submitted to end the trail at Estero Parkway.   The council chose not to act on that resolution and by the end of the meeting nearly all of the Council Members expressed support to keep the BERT initiative moving forward.   (Read “Bonita Springs Rail Trail Project Gains Traction in Lee County” written by reporter Samantha Roesler from WINK News’ Gulf Shore Business).   

Project update: 

  • Trust for Public Lands (TPL) is in active negotiations with the owners of Seminole Gulf Rail. Once a deal is reached and a binding agreement complete, the project can move forward. Trust for Public Lands enters into an agreement with a 2-year “close date”. The agreed on purchase price will need to be paid using public and private funds from city, county, state and likely federal funds. 
  • The Lee MPO has now updated Estero and Bonita Springs Councils. Their next stop will be in March with the MPO Policy Board. The policy board is made up of all county commissioners and representatives from each of the Lee County municipalities. The question for the MPO Policy Board will be, should this project move on to “Design Phase”. It will be important that we have as many Friends of BERT attend the county meeting! 
  • BERT is a priority trail and as such receives State of Florida SUN Trails funds to design and build the rail trail. 

We are gaining real momentum for BERT!   This not only increases the chances that BERT will actually come to fruition but also helps shorten the timeline for delivery of a usable trail.  It’s you, the members of Friends of BERT who are providing the public support that is a critical element needed for success.  With your help this project is going to happen, and it is going to happen sooner rather than later!   Thank you for all of your efforts to date to make BERT a reality!

Deb Orton, Presidentfriendsofbert@bonitaesterorailtrail.comhttps://bonitaesterorailtrail.com

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