SJR2C - Deland to Debary Station

Submitted by mag on

New Blue Spring Trail segment of SJR2CWe set out to prove that a couple of casual, cautious, recreational bikers who do not like riding on high-speed roads can have a great, mostly-trail-riding adventure leaving from Deland. This should theoretically be easy! Deland and Debary are near an important intersection that forms a hub from the Great Florida Regional Trail Network. Deland is just a few miles east of the St Johns River to Sea Loop (SJR2C) and at Debary the SJR2C joins the Coast-To-Coast Connector to continue east to Titusville. At Debary the SJR2C turns North toward Palatka and the C-2-C turns South to join with major trails in its journey west to the Gulf. In fact, Debary is one of the few places 4 Regional Connectors meet - the St Johns River to Sea, the Coast to Coast Connector, the East Coast Greenway alternate route, and the Heart of Florida Regional Connector. So it's vitally important that this get completed as soon as possible.

Our destination on Day 1 was Winter Garden, in the heart of the West Orange Trail - and in fact the West Orange Trail is the heart of Winter Garden. Sticking to trails as much as possible it's a distance of 55 miles. We don't travel fast and we stop a lot for photos, nav checks and breaks. We planned a loop route - the only section we overlapped outbound and home-bound is Deland to Debary Station so I'm only going to cover that section once. 

From Downtown Deland the best way to get to the Beresford Trail section of SJR2C there's no really great route, but the best route we've found is to take Minnesota west to Ridgewood. Ridgewood is a fairly quiet, slow road and it cross Highway 44 at a place where the traffic is slowed down to 40 and you have good visibility (unlike the dreaded crossing at Grande). Take Ridgewood south to where it comes to a T at Beresford. From there you have 2 options - bad and badder... going left (East) on Beresford and down Fatio is our least favorite because, although you aren't on Fatio long before cutting into Beresford Park, it's one of those roads with no shoulders, double yellow line, and hills - so motorists don't want to cross the lines to give you space - and they don't... it's quite dangerous. The other option is to go west to Alexander, which is a sand road and from the end there's a short path through the woods. I've included photos of this route even though I fear the wrong person might see it and close off this option... If this is you, think twice before you do it... sooner or later someone will get killed on the other route.

Florida Softshell Turtle on SJR2CBeresford is a gorgeous trail ...lots of wildlife! This guy is a Florida Softshell Turtle who came out of the river to bask in the sun and didn't care to be bothered by wandering photographers. He was HUGE!. I estimate his carapace was about 24 inches but they actually get up to 3 feet!

SJR2C One Mile GapThe original trail ended at French Avenue and the entrance to Blue Spring Park. The trail now continues to a RR Overpass about a mile south, and from there it goes another 2.5 miles to a dead end turnaround. The new section is nice for exercise and recreation, but doesn't actually help the touring cyclist or commuters... you cut off a little of the back-roads through Orange City, but the cost is a steep ramp up and over the tracks - this is a tradeoff most fully-loaded cyclists would not want to make, so they would probably take the French Avenue exit rather than the overpass to Blue Spring Avenue. There is a nice parking lot at the overpass - empty on a weekday - but once the trail connects to Debary Station I'm betting it will be full! From this point it is 10 miles to Debary Station by road, and at least 2 - 3 miles are very ugly miles on Highway 17-92. Once the trail is complete it will be 7 miles, all protected from traffic. People will be able to park at the trailhead, hop on the trail, and take their bike on the train to just about anywhere in Orlando. A whole new batch of cycling commuters may emerge!

But for now, southbound cyclists must leave the trail at Blue Spring Avenue and thread their way through local roads to the southernmost road (Azalea at the Wendy's) and from there ride either in the traffic lane or on the sidewalk for at least 2 miles - it's 3 miles if you aren't willing to take a long detour. On our return trip we detoured west down Highbanks  to Donald Smith Blvd, which is where we expect the extension of the trail to come out. It's only ONE MILE from where the trail dead-ends to this intersection... it should be easy to make this connection - it's mostly public or utility land.  It looks like there is plenty of space for the trail under the power lines or along existing access roads.  This would surely be a more direct, faster and cheaper alternative than another RR over pass, which would take years to complete and more years to fund.    

But for now you are stuck on 17-92 for way too long.  Eventually though you get to Shell Road which is a nice quiet road that takes you directly to Debary Station, where it's simple to hop on a train, or not too difficult to proceed south toward Orlando by bike. For our adventures beyond Debary Station please read the next posts.

 

 

 

 

Heading out from Deland to Winter Garden via SJR2C
Heading out from Deland to Winter Garden
Heading out from Deland to Winter Garden via SJR2C
Heading out from Deland to Winter Garden
Minnesota Avenue - best route to Beresford Trail (SJR2C) but not great
Minnesota Avenue - best route to Beresford Trail but not great
Ridgewood Avenue is best south route to SJR2C
Ridgewood Avenue is best south route to SJR2C
Crossing Highway 44 to SJR2C
Crossing Highway 44 to SJR2C
Approach to Beresford Trail SJR2C from Beresford Park
Approach to Beresford Trail SJR2C from Beresford Park
Alternate approach to Beresford Trail SJR2C
Alternate approach to Beresford Trail from the north
Alternate approach to Beresford Trail SJR2C
Alternate approach to Beresford Trail from the north
Beresford Blue Spring Trail segment of SJR2C
Beresford Blue Spring Trail segment of SJR2C
Beresford Blue Spring Trail segment of SJR2C
Beresford Blue Spring Trail segment of SJR2C
Florida Softshell Turtle on SJR2C
Florida Softshell Turtle sunbathing on the Beresford Trail
New Blue Spring Trail segment of SJR2C
Fully loaded cyclists can exit here to avoid the steep overpass
New Blue Spring Trail segment of SJR2C
New Blue Spring Trail segment of SJR2C
Blue Spring SJR2C
Use caution at the new tunnel due to sand
RR Overpass at Blue Spring Ave SJR2C
Steep climb for loaded Cyclists
RR Overpass at Blue Spring Ave SJR2C
Steep climb for loaded Cyclists
RR Overpass at Blue Spring Ave SJR2C
Steep climb for loaded Cyclists
RR Overpass at Blue Spring Ave SJR2C
Parking lot empty - No bike commuters here!! Not yet...
SJR2C intermim route
Still some sand roads in Orange City
SJR2C intermim route
Highway 1792 is NO FUN!
Future SJR2C Route
Here's where we expect the SJR2C to emerge
Future SJR2C Route
Plenty of room for a trail
Future SJR2C Route
This will cut off 3 ugly miles between Blue Spring Park and Debary Station
Future SJR2C Route
This will cut off 3 ugly miles between Blue Spring Park and Debary Station
SJR2C One Mile Gap
Less than ONE MILE GAP to connect the SJR2C to Debary Station
Future SJR2C Route
Shell Road takes you right to Debary Station
Debary Station - link to the SJR2C
Debary Station - link to the SJR2C