UPPER TAMPA BAY
If you need help on the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, whether because of a bike crash, medical emergency or scary stalker, just look down.
Chances are you'll see a bright yellow decal, if not at your feet, then close by.
Hillsborough County park rangers recently installed 229 of the decals every 200 feet along the trail so bikers, joggers and skaters can tell 911 dispatchers exactly where they are.
As part of the $3,000 project, sheriff's deputies and firefighters have maps showing the location of each marker, as well as other information they may need, such as directions. If there's a locked gate between them and one of the marked locations on the trail, they'll also have the combination or the key to the lock, officials said.
The numbered decals also will help park rangers know where maintenance is needed along the 7.5-mile trail.
"Now we'll be able to track incidents," senior park manager Tina Russo said. "If people keep crashing in the same spot, we might have to do something about that."
Russo said she wanted to create such a system when the first part of the trail opened more than a decade ago, but the technology didn't exist at the time.
One of the key steps the county took to make the location markers possible was to put the trail into the county's geographic information system, which keeps detailed place information on roads and addresses.
Once that was done, addresses could be assigned to points on the trail and printed on tough, weather-resistant decals. Applied to warm asphalt, the decals cure in place, adhering like paint.
Officials plan to add the decals soon to the Fort King Trail, the Balm-Boyette Bike Trail and the soon-to-open Northdale Trail.
Two years ago, the county installed markers along the Town 'N Country Greenway to see if they worked. They did, so officials made the Upper Tampa Bay Trail the second in the county to receive the markers.
The trail is used by more than 100,000 people a year. Among them are Jimmie and Beatrice Thomas of Town 'N Country.
They've walked the trail two or three times a week for the past couple of years. They've never run into someone in distress, but "we've seen some people who looked like they were struggling," said Jimmie Thomas, 60.
"It's an excellent idea," he said. "Just having these numbers is going to help tremendously if something happens."
Richard Danielson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 269-5311.