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Plans for a bicycle trail would unite central Tampa

Take a vision to connect 20 square miles spanning 20 neighborhoods and what do you get?

Hopefully, by the year 2020, a circular network of trails for cyclists and pedestrians.

At least that's the vision for a grass roots effort stemming from central Tampa.

It sounds like a good one.

Having lived near the Hillsborough River in Seminole Heights, I rarely ventured out on foot and never on bike.

As a reporter, I hear the area's low rank for pedestrian safety and details of deaths of bicyclists. And the scenery along the way — particularly Florida Avenue — makes the journey hardly worthwhile.

But imagine a bike-friendly trail leading to all my favorite places.

Not that this is a new idea. For 20 years, our friends across the bay have enjoyed the Pinellas Trail, which is nationally known.

When will Hillsborough step up to the plate for cyclists?

A little more than a year ago, Lena Young-Green, a retired senior legislative assistant to former state Sen. James Hargrett, and Myron Griffin, an interior "plantscaper" and antique dealer, dreamed up the trail network.

They chose a name befitting a superhero: the Green Artery.

Each month, they present the concept to a Tampa neighborhood during its association meeting. They plan to wrap up presentations in August. They are working with city officials and have the support of Mayor Bob Buckhorn. They have a videographer working to showcase the area's resources.

Griffin, who lives in the Hampton Terrace neighborhood, says the trail would be a legacy he could leave to the area after he's gone.

But a trail of this magnitude should be a countywide effort, and Griffin and Young-Green had the right idea when they enlisted help from graduate students at the University of South Florida. Also, an $80,000 federal grant will add the Green Artery's map to plans in the city of Tampa.

Plans show the main part of the trail flowing along the Hillsborough River from 40th Street to downtown. Then it would link with the Riverwalk downtown, before curving around Palmetto Beach to McKay Bay and back up 40th Street.

The vision is still in its early phases, though. Griffin and Young-Green don't know how much it would cost or where they would get the money.

I know some bicyclists take to the streets en masse in Seminole Heights, but I've passed on my options to bike to Sulphur Springs Park.

When I wanted to go to a park or restaurant, I'd hop in my car.

When I wanted to ride my bike, I'd load it in my car and head for an off-road mountain bike trail at Morris Bridge Park in Thonotosassa or the paved Pinellas Trail. Some say that the Upper Tampa Bay Trail is also nice.

At the neighborhood meetings, the duo ask for input on landmarks in the neighborhood. They encourage bicycle lanes and "sharrows," the road markings indicating motorists must share the road with bicyclists.

Destinations along the way would include Rogers Park, Sulphur Springs Pool and Tower, the Lowry Park Zoo and Riverside and Desoto parks. The trail would lead to restaurants and museums in Ybor City, downtown and Seminole Heights.

Their bigger vision is to create something of a recreational destination, similar to the Pinellas Trail, that could draw people from outside the area, stimulate the local economy and raise property values.

I imagine it's something everyone in the area would use. I sure would.

.if you go

Bike trail meeting

The Green Artery will next be showcased at the Riverside Heights Civic Association meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Franciscan Center, 3010 Perry Ave. The public is invited.

Plans for a bicycle trail would unite central Tampa 01/05/12 [Last modified: Thursday, January 5, 2012 3:30am]
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