Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Business

Brooksville's Good Neighbor Trail is now worth bragging about — and using

The Good Neighbor Trail actually goes somewhere now.

You can really use it. Please do use it, as a matter of fact, because the more cyclists, walkers, joggers and skaters who appear on the trail, the more others will want to join them.

Eventually, the trail will run from S Main Street in Brooksville to the Withlacoochee State Trail, 10 miles to the east.

Eventually, riders will be able to pedal from Brooksville, by way of the Withlacoochee, to Dade City or Inverness without the usual concern about being turned into road kill. The $2.1 million for the remaining 6.6 miles of trail has been set aside. Construction has been scheduled for 2016.

Eventually, I bet, cyclists will even be able to ride on the proposed Coast-to-Coast Connector trail from Brooksville to St. Petersburg or Titusville. I'm willing to bet this because I've seen the growing use of trails and the growing awareness of their economic development power, even among conservatives in Tallahassee.

But I've written enough about the future of these pathways and, particularly, about the future of the Good Neighbor Trail, which has been in the works for 18 years. I'm ready to write about the part of the trail that has already been built and what it can do for us now.

Earlier this month, inspectors signed off on the 2.5 miles of trail between Mondon Hill and Weatherly roads.

Though this might sound like just one more brick in a half-finished wall, which in a way it is, it's also a real step forward in the trail's usefulness.

Start out on a trail that's roughly a mile long, as it previously was, and you're likely to arrive at the end feeling cheated. That why there has been so little traffic since the first section opened in 2009.

But now there's enough trail for a 7-mile round trip — enough for a relaxed cruise for plenty of adult riders and more than enough for a family outing with small kids. Enough for all but the most ambitious walkers and runners.

And now the trail doesn't dump serious riders onto busy Mondon Hill. It takes them into prime cycling territory, the quiet roads east of Brooksville — roads that lead to Istachatta, where riders can pick up the Withlacoochee trail to Inverness.

That was the route my wife and I took on our hot, sunny midday ride Monday, when the deeply shaded section of the Good Neighbor was especially welcome.

When we reached our destination, Inverness, we were amazed at how the city has incorporated the nearby trail into its downtown, amazed at the variety of choices for eating, amazed, after we chose a place with sidewalk tables, at the amount of foot traffic and the feeling of bustle.

Our more isolated cousin city, which used to always strike me as just little more backward than Brooksville, has become the town we want to be. A big reason, city officials and business owners always say, is the trail.

So, it's time to start using what we have.

It's time for the city to push the idea of Brooksville as a center of fitness and recreation. A few more signs might help. So, definitely, would occasionally sweeping the accumulated sticks and leaves from the trail. Maybe it's time for someone to hold an annual bike ride showcasing the trail — part of it now, the entire stretch when it's finished.

Or, if you don't want to get that involved, you can just lace up your walking shoes or climb on a bike and get out there. You'll send the message that the Good Neighbor is a safe, scenic, usable trail.

Never has community service been so much fun.

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