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Palm Harbor neighbors join to get kids a bike rack near Pinellas Trail

Yamile Martinez, 11, holds her trophy next to the bike rack that was inspired by her needing a place to lock her bike. Trail neighbor Grayce Merrell saw that children needed a bike rack.

THERESA BLACKWELL | Times

Yamile Martinez, 11, holds her trophy next to the bike rack that was inspired by her needing a place to lock her bike. Trail neighbor Grayce Merrell saw that children needed a bike rack.

PALM HARBOR — The Indian Bluff Island neighborhood pulled out all the stops Friday to celebrate a new amenity on the Pinellas Trail.

Elected officials, speeches, balloons, flags, a fire engine, a parrot — even a baby alligator.

All this for a new bike rack.

"Somebody might say, 'They're putting a bike rack on the Pinellas Trail — what's the big deal?' " said Scott Daniels, president of Pinellas Trails Inc., a volunteer group that raises funds for trail amenities.

But now, he said, students who live nearby can ride their bikes, lock them up next to the trail, then walk a short distance to their school bus stop at Ocean View Avenue and De Soto Boulevard.

And the project shows how a public-private partnership can work when neighbors work together. For the Indian Bluff Island neighborhood, that means neighbors like Grayce Merrell.

"I'm 75," she said at the Ocean View Avenue bike rack celebration Friday. "I've lived at the end of this street for 50 years."

Merrell was an early supporter of what became the Pinellas Trail.

"We used to put plywood on the railroad tracks so the kids could ride their bikes on the trails," she said.

But she became tired of toting boards, and her complaint ended up with a younger Fred Marquis before his first stint as county administrator. Soon, the trail emerged where the railroad once ran.

Recently, Merrell noticed that one of the neighborhood children, Yamile Martinez, 11, didn't have a good place to lock up her bike next to the school bus stop. And another child had his bike stolen, Merrell said, after he left it unsecured at the stop.

So Merrell tried a few numbers without success, then called County Commissioner Susan Latvala, who also lives in the neighborhood. And Merrell got the contacts she needed to get the project rolling. The neighborhood raised $500, Daniels ordered it and the county installed it.

Gina Harvey, a planner in the county's planning department, facilitated the project.

"We're trying to encourage kids to ride their bikes," she said, so the new rack is a good idea. "It's good for the students. It's good for the trail users. It's good for the neighborhood."

The Friday event included Latvala and School Board member Jane Gallucci, others who helped with the project, as well as neighborhood children and their parents.

Kim Drozdik is happy that her son Johnny Drozdik, 13, can now ride his bike to the bus. And she can stay at home with her young twins. "The biggest thing is, there's been no place to put his bike," she said.

Yamile's mother, Mery Paullo, likes the bike rack, too.

"She can park her bike here and it's secure," she said.

Times staff writer Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4170.

Palm Harbor neighbors join to get kids a bike rack near Pinellas Trail 05/02/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 5, 2008 5:17pm]

    

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