trailed.htm    1/1/08    Return to DSM Homepage


Expanding trail system needs public support

A Times Editorial
Published January 1, 2008

If your New Year's resolutions include getting more exercise, here is a chance to exercise your influence on a plan to increase bicycling and other outdoor recreational opportunities in Pasco County.

Later this month and again in February, Pasco County and the National Parks Service will hold workshops to devise a long-term greenways and blueways system to provide bicycling, hiking, canoeing and kayaking trails.

The Florida Greenway system already includes multiple locations in Pasco: the Suncoast Trail running parallel to the Suncoast Parkway; the Pithlachascotee River Trail; the Hillsborough River Trail, which actually begins in Pasco before meandering south; and the Withlacoochee State Trail, which ends in Trilby. Advocates are seeking connections to trails elsewhere. Trilby community activist Denny Mihalinec, for instance, is reminding east Pasco residents to continue lobbying for a trail to link Trilby to Dade City and further south. Westsiders want a way to increase access to the popular Pinellas Trail.

It is easy to lose patience because of the slow pace of developing recreational trails. Mihalinec began his push a decade ago. New Port Richey officials were unaware in 2006 they were sitting on a 5-year-old state grant of $20,000 to devise a trail system to link Sims Park to a parking garage that was never pursued. Likewise, Port Richey investigated but didn't make progress on a proposed walking path along the Pithlachascotee River and beneath the bridge on U.S. 19. It would connect the east side of the city to the waterfront and bike trail west of the highway and was envisioned as a way to link the city to trails to the Starkey Wilderness Preserve.

The state hasn't been much better. Development of the Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park including planned canoe trails has been slow to materialize nearly a decade after the preserved land west of Gulfview Square mall became a state park.

Still, there have been successes. With state help, Dade City was able to complete the 1-miletrail from Eighth Street at Church Avenue to just beyond Fairfield Avenue, and $3-million is set aside from the Penny for Pasco sales tax to build a trail from Massachusetts Avenue to Starkey Park.

These upcoming workshops are part of a long-range plan for tens of millions of dollars worth of bicycle and pedestrian paths across the county to be constructed along natural gas and water transmission lines and as part of highway projects. Potential users abound. Americans bought 18.2-million bicycles in 2006, making bicycles and accessories a $5.8-billion-a-year industry, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association.

More opportunities should be encouraged, considering the popularity of the trail along the Suncoast Parkway and the natural fit with local attempts to capitalize on ecotourism and nature-based recreational opportunities.

The workshops are a chance to help devise exactly where those future routes should be located. The public then shouldn't sit back and just spin its wheels. It should be aggressive about participating, demand a timeline and be willing to help finance improvements that go beyond lines on paper.

Fast Facts:

If you go

Pasco County Greenways, Trails and Blueways Public Workshops:

6 p.m. Jan. 31 at Starkey Environmental Education Center, Starkey Wilderness Preserve, New Port Richey

6 p.m. Feb. 5 at Charles McIntosh Civic Center/American Legion Hall, Dade City

[Last modified December 31, 2007, 20:07:29]