Attorneys meeting with landowners over BERT fallout

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If a railroad-turned-bike path was cutting through your backyard, what would you be concerned about?

“The entrance is my biggest concern,” said Ronald Mizwa, who lives in Granada Lakes.

Mizwa has lived in Granada Lakes for 18 years.

The community is one of several that will have the new Bonita Estero Rail Trail, or BERT, running near it.

Mizwa likes the idea of the 14.9-mile trail, but he has some questions.

“We have to cross the new trail when we come into our community,” he said. “What are they going to do about it? A gate? Fencing? I don’t know what their plans are on that.”

Other neighbors in Granada Lakes told WINK News they were concerned about parking, safety and security.

“We understand the fear of the unknown sometimes applies to people living on the corridor, wondering what’s going to happen,” said Doug Hattaway, Southeast Region Conservation Director for Trust for Public Land.

Trust for Public Land is hoping to purchase the $82 million dollar railroad from Seminole Gulf Railway in two years.

The railroad-turned-bike trail will start at Alico Road and end along Bonita Beach Road.

“There’s an incredible value to the community that we can take advantage of this opportunity to realize that vision without displacing anyone of having a recreational trail in the environment,” Hattaway said.

Some of the landowners living along these 14.9 miles may even get a financial payout if they own land created by the easement.

“We typically say these trails may be a nice amenity for the community, but not everyone wants to host one in their backyard,” said Lindsay Brinton, an attorney with Lewis Rice.

Brinton is representing about a dozen landowners, and she says there are up to an additional 50 landowners who will have a right to file a claim for compensation.

She expects to file claims in the summer or fall.

Landowners would then be compensated in about two years.

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