DeLand is one of the most charming historic towns on the St Johns River-to-Sea Loop. It has a delightful downtown area with many restaurants and pubs, lots of outside seating, plenty of mature trees, parks and historic homes, and diverse options for entertainment and accommodations. In addition, it is strategically located near the Loop between two of the most beautiful spring state parks in all of Florida: Blue Spring and De Leon Spring State Park. Soon it will be easy to take the SunRail from Orlando to DeBary and ride on a beautiful off-road rail to near DeLand. It’s these features that attracted us to DeLand when we were searching all of Florida for an ideal retirement home, and it‘s these features that will bring cyclists from Orlando and all over central Florida, and will attract cycle-tourism from all over the world like a magnet, the same way Winter Garden has.
But there’s one small flaw… there’s not a direct, easy, safe way to cycle, walk or travel by wheelchair from DeLand to the Loop. It’s only a little over 2 miles, but any route involves roads with traffic and narrow or no shoulder. The accepted route is west on Minnesota to Ridgewood, then back east to Fatio Road. None one of these roads are really pleasant and safe for families, casual cyclists, and those with disabilities - and some sections are dangerous.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was a direct, off-road trail to access the St Johns River-to-Sea Loop and Deland Station from downtown Deland? Well, it turns out there is one possible way to make this happen – it’s called the Deland Rail Road Spur. The Spur is a lightly-used, currently overgrown, unloved and uncared-for spur line that runs from close to downtown (Michigan and Delaware) to the Loop near Grand Avenue and then on to the Deland Station – a distance of about 3.25 miles. The current spur is owned by CSX and there are only two trains a week, on Tuesday and Thursday, that travel at less than 10 miles per hour. At the terminus on Michigan Avenue there is a “run-around track” where they switch direction by shifting the engine to the front of the cars. (see photos)
As the Rails to Trails Conservancy says in their publication “America's Rails-with-Trails Report”
“Placing trails alongside active railroad corridors is becoming a resourceful and more common method of securing land for safe, accessible and effective trail development.”
The Alliance is currently planning a feasibility study to investigate the possibility of constructing a rail-with-trail path along the spur route. This trail would have a huge positive impact on the city of Deland, bringing cyclists for lunch and overnight stops and building Deland’s reputation as a friendly trail-town. It will have a positive impact on the Loop, adding one more ideal destination to the roster of wonderful places to visit around the Loop. We are seeking support and grants to help with this study and volunteers to help us assure a positive outcome. Please join us in our quest – simply post a message on our “Contact Us” page or sign up for our newsletter and post your interest, or better yet register for an account and post your comments.
Hover over photos for caption.