Now that the Friendship Trail seems destined for destruction, David Tinkham wants his brick back.
The Tampa resident used to see his memorial to his father every time he ran across the Friendship Trail. The tile paver is inscribed "Never, never quit/In memory of Dad'' and is among hundreds of bricks stretching 50 yards or more along the trail's curb.
But it appears that Tinkham and everyone else who paid $60 for personalized tiles and $1,500 or more for bronze plaques will have to consign them to the same fate as the bridge.
That's because the bridge, which engineers warn could collapse under its own weight, is too unsafe for anyone to set foot on, says Steve Valdez, client services manager for Hillsborough County. "It could go at any time, according to our engineers,'' he says.
And even if workers could go on the bridge, cutting out each tile and plaque individually would not be cost-effective, Valdez says.
Frank Miller of Tampa, a prime organizer of the Bricks Across the Bay effort, says the group wanted to return the tile pavers and bronze plaques to owners, but no one can go out there to get them.
"We tried once; they wouldn't even allow the rangers to go out.''
Miller says the program ended when the trail closed. Proceeds from the sale of bricks and plaques had gone to a maintenance fund, which still contains $81,739.91, says Pete Yauch, Pinellas County's director of public works and transportation. He says the trail's oversight committee, composed of commissioners from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and private citizens, will make the decision on how it will be spent.
Philip Morgan, Times staff writer