TAMPA — Bayshore Boulevard property owner Harry E. Teasley Jr. made a peace offering this week to pedestrians who curse his leaf-choked right of way.
A sidewalk? Dream on.
But his ilex shrubs got buzz cuts, and the wanderlust torulosa junipers met pruning shears. Tuesday afternoon, his grounds crew was busy clearing a 4-foot-wide path along the front curb of the retired Coca-Cola executive's residence.
"We're clearing all this out of here," Teasley said, pointing to piles of cuttings.
The cleanup followed a Tampa Bay Times report Sunday about Teasley's long-standing opposition to a city sidewalk.
Eight years ago, a jogger died 1 mile north of Teasley's house, and a task force recommended walkways to give people an alternative to crossing busy Bayshore. He is one of the last holdouts without a sidewalk.
Teasley, 74, notes that most people still cross the road to walk along the water. He thinks the sidewalk money would have been better spent on an automated system to ticket speeders.
He saw the online comments that followed the story. One man threatened to soak Teasley's plants with herbicide. Teasley loves his gardens. Strangers called him selfish.
He took a fresh look at his landscaping and decided that the junipers and ilex could be reined in. He would lose some privacy, but he would replant along the inside of the fence.
"I said, 'I'm going to get rid of any issues that relate to the bushes not being trimmed,' " he said.
Richelle Colley, 53, checked out the fresh path Tuesday night.
A few months ago, Colley, a corporate real estate portfolio manager, lost her footing and slipped onto Bayshore while trying to avoid Teasley's landscaping, she said. She had been walking on a wet, angled strip of grass at the edge of the roadway.
She felt better once she saw the improvements.
"It makes a big difference," she said.
But she wondered if the pedestrian peril will return when the landscaping fills in again.
Teasley said he will keep the shrubs and junipers cut back.
He still can't see giving up his sabal palms, which he had planted with city permission 20 years ago, for the sake of a sidewalk.
Colley suggests he reconsider that.
"I really applaud him for thinking about people's safety and taking the measures that he did," she said. "But I think he needs to take it one more step and make it a continuous sidewalk."
Times staff writer Patty Ryan can be reached at (813) 226-3382 or [email protected]