Sunday, February 25, 2018
Politics

Penny for Pasco would pave the way for more county trails

Kim Rowe spends a lot of time in the saddle. Most weekdays, the owner of a northeast Pasco printing shop is up early for a 30- or 40-mile bike ride. He uses a three-wheel trike for trails, and faster recumbent bicycle for roads.

"During the weekend, I always get a 100-miler in, and then another 50 miles on top of that," he said. "Not bad for a 59-year-old man, huh?"

Rowe travels throughout Florida reviewing trails for his website, BicycleTrailReview.com. But most of his local trips are on the 46-mile Withlacoochee State Trail, which starts near his Trilby home and heads north through Citrus County. He was excited to learn that the trail would be extended south to Zephyrhills in a few years if voters approve a second round of the Penny for Pasco sales tax.

"That would be a great thing for Zephyrhills and Dade City," he said. If done right, "they would probably get a huge amount of people using the trail, which would help the businesses."

The Penny tax, which is included on the Nov. 6 general election ballot, would provide $26.2 million for hiking and biking trails. The rest of the county's $226 million share over the next decade would go toward road and public transportation projects, public safety equipment, environmental land acquisition and economic development.

The trail money would pay for a major expansion of Pasco's pathways, including several key connections to regional trails that the county has long desired but never had the money to build.

"Philosophically, (county commissioners) agreed that this is absolutely the kind of thing the Penny is intended for," said Michele Baker, chief assistant county administrator. "It's infrastructure that improves our quality of life."

The big-ticket item is the $13 million Bi-County Trail, which would stretch diagonally across Pasco from Trilby to Trinity. For long-distance cyclists like Rowe, it would connect the Withlacoochee trail with the trails in Starkey Wilderness Park and with the Pinellas Trail. It would also allow the county to host more triathlons and other races.

The project also revives a bit of history. The 12-foot-wide path follows the old Orange Belt Railway, which was built in the 1880s to connect Sanford and St. Petersburg. (Much of the 38-mile Pinellas Trail uses that same rail corridor.)

"That's the biggie," said Richard Riley, a Trilby activist who is chairman of a pedestrian citizens advisory group. "It is one that the county has identified as a priority."

Until now, Pasco expanded its trail system in bits and pieces. It encouraged state transportation agencies to include trails in large road projects, such as the popular Suncoast Trail that runs alongside the parkway of the same name. The Starkey Trail was also improved with federal stimulus money and some Penny proceeds.

"Right now, there's really no funding in the county for building trails," said Manny Lajmiri, a planner with the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization. "We just include them as part of right-of-way expansions or something like that."

If voters approve another 10 years of the Penny tax, it would pay for several other trail projects. There's a connection between two county parks near the Anclote River and the Pinellas Trail in Tarpon Springs. There's also a link between the Starkey Trail and a separate Pinellas Trail spur on East Lake Boulevard. Also on the list is a walking trail along Fivay Road and a pair of pedestrian overpasses where the Suncoast Trail intersects with State Roads 52 and 54.

Other projects included on a long-term future trail system would be added as the county widens or builds new roadways. Rudy Miller, a trails advocate who helped craft that plan, said land near hiking paths tends to have higher values compared with land further away.

"In today's world, there's a real demand for the opportunity for people to use these trails," he said.

Martha Campbell, an administrator in the county parks department, said she thinks of a trail almost as a "linear park." The hiking and biking paths provide recreation for nearby residents, she said. Linking up with other counties also encourages visitors to stop by Pasco's parks.

"Eventually, the hope is that there will be a trail system throughout Florida," she said. "This is a beginning for us."

Lee Logan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

Comments
Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushnerís security clearance

Top Justice official alerted White House 2 weeks ago to ongoing issues in Kushnerís security clearance

WASHINGTON ó A top Justice Department official alerted the White House two weeks ago that significant information requiring additional investigation would further delay the security clearance process of senior adviser Jared Kushner, three people fami...
Published: 02/23/18
Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

TAMPA ó A bipartisan pair of former congressmen spoke Friday about gun safety measures that are more drastic than those being considered following the Parkland school shootings, and about hopes for a national youth movement comparable to the 1960s an...
Published: 02/23/18

Gulfport candidates draw stark contrasts

GULFPORT ó One candidate is a plain-spoken, straightforward technology consultant who preaches "conservative fiscal responsibility" and votes Republican in national elections.The other is a self-proclaimed "progressive liberal" who practices law, pro...
Published: 02/23/18
William March: Gun issues playing bigger role now in local races

William March: Gun issues playing bigger role now in local races

In the aftermath of the Broward County high school shooting, gun rights issues have jumped to the forefront of local legislative races.Democratic challengers are calling out incumbents in Tampa legislative seats on their past stances on gun control."...
Published: 02/22/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

Mattis expected to back allowing transgender troops to stay in the military

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is expected to propose to President Donald Trump that transgender members of the U.S. military be allowed to continue serving despite the presidentís call last summer for a ban on all transgender service, acc...
Published: 02/22/18
Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

Sen. Marco Rubio faces tough audience at riveting CNN forum on gun violence

After an emotionally draining day that captured national attention ó the massive rally in Tallahassee and a small, tearful gathering of survivors at the White House ó CNNís Wednesday night town hall on the Parkland shooting could have easily been ove...
Published: 02/22/18
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens indicted on felony invasion of privacy charge

A St. Louis grand jury has indicted Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens on a felony invasion of privacy charge related to the Republicanís affair with a woman in 2015. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced the indictment Thursday. She launched an ...
Published: 02/22/18
Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trumpís club

Two weeks after Trump chose him for ambassador, nominee pledged money for a gala at Trumpís club

Two weeks after President Donald Trump nominated Florida businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr. to be ambassador to Barbados, Rizzuto pledged thousands of dollars to fund a gala at Trumpís Mar-a-Lago Club, the galaís organizer said.Rizzuto and his wife, Den...
Published: 02/22/18
Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

Mueller files new charges in Manafort, Gates case

New charges were filed Thursday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business partner, ratcheting up the legal pressure on them as they prepare for a trial later this year.A new indictment has long been expected in special cou...
Published: 02/22/18
Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Romano: Welcome to Florida, a state more afraid of conversation than guns

Gun advocates are absolutely right about this:A ban on assault weapons will not end school shootings.How do we know?Because there was a federal ban on assault weapons for 10 years, and mass killings persisted. Thatís because a ban deals only with fut...
Published: 02/22/18