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Beach trail in planning phase now

TREASURE ISLAND — Plans for the new $1.5 million Central Beach trail are now more than 60 percent complete, but final costs will not be known for about another month.

The trail's construction cost will be covered by a multimillion-dollar bank loan that will also pay for replacing bridges to the Isle of Capri and Isle of Palms.

City Manager Reid Silverboard said Tuesday the project is still within budget but is slightly behind schedule. He expects bids will be let in May and construction started in June. The entire project should be completed by the end of September.

The existing nearly mile-long trail was built about 40 years ago, widened in 1998, and is now badly deteriorating.

The new trail, designed by Phil Graham Jr. of Graham-Booth Landscape Architecture, will offer a much wider and winding concrete path for walkers, bike riders and skaters.

The 12-foot wide concrete path will include benches, turtle-safe lighting, frequent groupings of palm trees and other landscaping, and a low sand wall at the edge of the beach.

Graham told the City Commission recently that he met with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster to discuss whether that city would be interested in upgrading the 500-foot portion of the existing trail that crosses its Municipal Beach property.

"We believe St. Petersburg will be on board," Silverboard said.

Planning to upgrade the Treasure Island trail began in 2005 and at first was approved in concept only. Last year, the commission agreed to move ahead with the central portion of the beachfront project stretching from 104th to 119th avenues.

The trail project must be approved and permitted by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

If the DEP decides the trail must be designated as a "major project," Graham said additional documentation and minor changes to the walkway may be required.

The only other complication to constructing the new trail is a sand sculpture event proposed by the Chamber of Commerce to coincide with the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August.

The chamber estimates it will need to truck in about 3,000 tons of sand — or about 100 truckloads, according to Graham.

"We want to make sure the sidewalk is not torn up," he said.

The event has yet to be approved by the city, which is concerned about related law enforcement costs. Action is expected to be taken at Tuesday's commission meeting.

Silverboard said trucks bringing in sand for the sand sculptures would enter the beach at St. Petersburg's Municipal Beach and the chamber would have to be responsible for any damage to that city's section of existing trail.

Treasure Island would wait until the event is over before constructing the southern portion of the new trail.

Graham says the trail project will not interfere with— or be slowed down by — the event.

Meanwhile, he is meeting with hotel and other beachfront property owners to discuss how they might upgrade landscaping on their properties to coordinate with the new trail.

"We have four properties interested in upgrading their landscaping," Graham says. "If we can get more it will be good for the city and good for the trail."

Overall construction will be limited to daytime hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. to avoid disturbing adjacent property owners and hotel guests. The DEP has told the city that the project can proceed during turtle nesting season.

Beach trail in planning phase now 01/31/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 5:12pm]
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