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St. Petersburg and Roser Park residents work toward trail compromise

ST. PETERSBURG — Under threatening skies, more than two dozen Roser Park residents walked and talked and talked some more about the controversial trail planned for their historic neighborhood.

There were opinions aplenty. But as residents trekked along the proposed path with views of homes perched atop surprising bluffs and wending its way amid oaks, a sense of accord seemed to be building.

It's not that everyone was in agreement, but those most against the project were beginning to believe their concerns were being heard.

Opponents of the $2.5 million pedestrian and bicycle trail say it will ruin their majestic tree canopy, be an ecological disaster and increase crime in their quiet enclave. They're also disturbed about the broad concrete path that would slice through their small, lineal park.

"It is very clear that the design as it is, is not popular," council member Karl Nurse said as neighbors gathered last Saturday.

Residents had staked out the most worrisome sections of the route in preparation for the walking meeting with Nurse, Mike Dove, administrator of neighborhood affairs, and Cheryl Stacks, the city's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

"We were out there for three hours. It was a very healthy discussion," Dove said. "What I heard them say is, instead of going back and forth on this, let's work out the different suggestions. Ideally, we'll come out with some compromise and at that time we will go back to the engineers. From my perspective, we're starting with a new trail."

Sharon Ewe, who has lived in the neighborhood with her husband, Jeff Strickrott, for four years, is leading the charge to make adjustments to the project.

"I am hoping for a bike trail that is sensible and fits the nature and character of our unique little park," Ewe said.

She hopes last Saturday's al fresco meeting and another planned this weekend will lead to ongoing discussions. She said it's being proposed that a committee of residents work with the city to develop a suitable trail.

One suggestion is to reduce the width of the path through the park. Another is to relocate what would be the second phase of the Booker Creek Trail, beginning at Sixth Avenue S and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street S and ending at 11th Avenue S and Third Street. One idea is to move the trail above the park, closer to Ninth Avenue S.

Other suggestions include letting a section of the trail run on Roser Park Drive, or even moving it to Bartlett Park, the neighborhood just south of Roser Park.

Residents like Jesse and Evelyn Oliver would like the trail to skip Roser Park altogether. As it is now, the trail would run a few feet from their home, in a narrow space bounded by Booker Creek.

"I just feel it's a privacy issue for me and my family," Evelyn Oliver said. "We moved here to enjoy the creek and feel like when they put the trail in, that's going to take away from our enjoyment. I feel in my heart that the trail is going to introduce more crime into our neighborhood."

Margie and Charles Senior, who have lived in their Roser Park home for 25 years, also are concerned.

"I just don't know what kind of criminal element it would attract," said Margie Senior, a teacher at Gibbs High School. "I just wonder why would they want to come into a historic neighborhood like that and construct a bike trail and cut down the beautiful trees."

The city has said it would develop a landscape replacement plan.

Not everyone who showed up Saturday is a Roser Park resident. Dan Harvey, founder of Harvey's 4th Street Grill in St. Petersburg, said his interest lay in the fact that he lives on another section of Booker Creek.

For Constance Price, who lives in Driftwood, another picturesque, tucked-away community, it is Roser Park's "dramatic topography" and her concern for the trees "that give Roser Park its distinctive woodland feel."

The day's conciliatory tone even extended to staunch trail supporters. Kai Warren, a former neighborhood president who has promoted the trail, is pleased that the city seems to be considering adaptations to make everyone happy.

"I am hopeful they will be more reasonable," he said of those who have fought the project. "If the city comes up with new plans and shows how we can save some trees and narrow the trail in some ways, I hope some people will come around, but it's hard to know."

Nurse said he doesn't know yet how plausible any of the proposed alternatives will be.

He would support halting the project if a compromise can't be reached.

"I'm not going to jam it down their throat," he said. "Obviously people have a lot of ideas. It sounded to me that depending on what can be done, we could get to a yes."

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or(727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

If you go

Walk the proposed Roser Park trail, 9 a.m., Saturday . Meet at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street S and Seventh Avenue S.

St. Petersburg and Roser Park residents work toward trail compromise 08/20/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 10:26am]
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