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Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

New Multiuse Recreational Trail Opens to the Public on Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota Campus

TOP: Rendering of completed Multiuse Recreational Trail (MURT) and Living Energy Access Facility (LEAF)—which will house parking, a restaurant, a gift shop, and a major solar array—now under construction at Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus. BOTTOM: Current photo of newly opened MURT, visible in foreground, with LEAF under construction. Landscape plantings and a section of pavers will be added to the trail, and plantings will be added on all exterior walls of the LEAF.

A new Multiuse Recreational Trail, or MURT, has opened along the perimeter of Selby Gardens’ Downtown Sarasota campus. The 800-linear-foot MURT gives pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, and others safe access to the campus as well as to the Sarasota Bayfront from neighborhoods south and east of the Gardens.

The paved trail runs the length of the northern and eastern borders of Selby Gardens’ property, along Mound Street/US Highway 41 to the north and South Orange Avenue to the east. It is the first component of Phase One of the Gardens’ Master Plan for its Downtown Sarasota campus to open, and it represents just one of several improvements being contributed to the community as part of the project.

“The new MURT isn’t quite complete yet, as we still have beautiful plantings and an area of pavers to install, but it is now open for all to use!” said Jennifer O. Rominiecki, President & CEO of Selby Gardens. “The MURT gives guests safe and convenient access to our campus on foot or by bike. What’s more, it gives our entire community a multimodal connection to the Sarasota bayfront and beyond.”

The new pathway significantly widens the previous sidewalk that bordered Selby Gardens’ campus, running a maximum of 12 feet wide on Orange Avenue and adding width on Mound Street as well. It meets the requirements of a multimodal trail, meaning it can be used for walking, jogging, cycling, and in-line skating. In addition to installing a wider sidewalk, Selby Gardens has provided some of its property along the northeast corner of its campus to accommodate off-site traffic improvements near the corner of Orange Avenue and Mound Street without affecting the planned building setback for that area.

A future highlight of the MURT, according to Rominiecki, will be the garden views that pedestrians and cyclists will enjoy when using it. “When Phase One construction on our project is completed next fall, everyone who utilizes the MURT will gain wonderful, sweeping views of new garden features and historical elements of our campus,” said Rominiecki. “The design is intended to make the Gardens look and feel more open, not hidden behind a fence or a wall. That’s something people will be able to enjoy on either side of our property line.”

The landscaping plan for the MURT involves adding an irrigation line and new plantings to be maintained by Selby Gardens’ horticulture staff. Additionally, a small area near Palm Avenue on Mound Street is temporarily covered with asphalt, but that will be replaced by pavers at the time that the original Augusta block is reinstalled on historic Palm Avenue within the campus. While those elements will come later in the project, Rominiecki says that opening the MURT in the meantime for multimodal access is a major milestone. “All of us at Selby Gardens are deeply grateful to our Chair, Marianne McComb, and her husband, Bill, for their important support of our campaign, which has made this element of the Master Plan possible,” said Rominiecki.

The entirety of Phase One of Selby Gardens’ Master Plan is expected to be complete in October 2023, less than a year from now. In addition to the MURT, Phase One consists of:

• a new Welcome Center;
• a state-of-the-art Plant Research Center with a new herbarium, laboratory, and library;
• the Living Energy Access Facility (LEAF), which will house parking, a garden-to-plate restaurant, a new gift shop, and a nearly 50,000-square-foot solar array that will make Selby Gardens the first net-positive botanical garden complex in the world;
• a cutting-edge stormwater-management system;
• off-site roadway improvements; and
• numerous new garden features with more open space.