SAFETY HARBOR — From shaded parks to winding trails to a smorgasbord of races and fitness groups and more, the folks you encounter running, walking or jogging around this city will often tell you: The city makes it easy.
A national running outfit agrees.
The Road Runners Club of America has named Safety Harbor one of the top five runner-friendly communities in the country alongside Belleview, Ill.; Richmond, Va.; Rockwall, Texas; and Spokane, Wash.
City Manager Matt Spoor says his staff is proud of the recognition, which they earned by submitting evidence of the community's abundant events and facilities.
For Safety Harbor, home of the annual multi-distance "Best Damn Race," Spoor said those amenities include a plethora of 5K, 10K, half- and full-marathon races plus pub dashes, quiet streets and gorgeous views along the Bayshore Linear Greenway Recreational Trail, among others.
"A lot of groups come here and ask me where to run," Dana Broadley, a 37-year-old Safety Harbor Resort and Spa banquet server, said recently as he stepped aside to let runners jog over a bridge past his fishing spot near the entrance to Philippe Park. "I say, 'The whole town.' "
It's a sentiment shared by several people.
Kate Kohler, 54, of Safety Harbor has friends who participate in a number of small running groups. She now prefers biking, but when she used to run she says she was drawn by Safety Harbor's scenic waterside pathways and wide sidewalks.
The Philadelphia native also said she feels safer traversing Safety Harbor's quaint neighborhoods and main streets here than in some larger cities like Tampa, which she says isn't very bicycle- or pedestrian-friendly.
Both Onder Ozboy, 44, and Riley Narum, 18, who live in Clearwater, said they are partial to Philippe Park, where there's little traffic and lots of wildlife, shade trees, water fountains and nearby parks with workout equipment like pull-up bars.
"I'm into scenery and I think it's so much better to get out rather than be in front of a TV on a treadmill," Narum said. "There's not a lot of places you can do that."
Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.