Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brooksville's racism no longer a barrier to the Good Neighbor Trail project

Maybe you remembered that Tuesday was the 19th anniversary of a terrible event in Brooksville's history, the death of Russell Coats.

Coats, who was white, was killed in a fight after groups of white and black young people squared off as though they belonged to enemy tribes. This was followed by lots of uncomfortable talk from officials who said Brooksville wasn't a particularly racist place — a message undermined by regular folks of both races who couldn't describe the fight without spewing slurs.

I think about this every year, and every year it seems as though that kind of old-fashioned, hateful racism has become less and less obvious.

Which is not to say it's gone, or it doesn't remain in other forms, which brings me to another of my longtime preoccupations: the Good Neighbor Trail.

After at least 13 years of talking, work has finally begun on this bike trail that will someday link Brooksville with the Withlacoochee State Trail.

On Russell Street, off S Brooksville Avenue, you can see yellow road graders and silt fencing. Running east to Jasmine Road is a gravel bed due to be paved by the fall. The city of Brooksville has started building a restroom at the trailhead on Russell, and today opens bids to build a nearby walking path.

Wonderful. But why did it take so long? Lots of reasons. But one is the attitude of folks east of the city. Instead of seeing the trail as asset and clamoring for it be built, some of them saw it as "pipeline'' to the mostly poor, mostly black neighborhood of south Brooksville, said Vice Mayor Lara Bradburn, who has been on the trail's advisory committee for more than a decade.

"The people out at the forest, they had some concerns that it would bring adverse traffic,'' she said. "They were concerned about a bad element entering their neighborhood.''

And what, exactly, does "adverse traffic'' mean? This is as tough to decipher as the motives of white urbanites who fled to the suburbs when I was a kid. In living rooms, you heard about race; in public, you heard about crime and property values.

If those are the real worries, Bradburn has helped dispel them. In 1996, as a reporter with Hernando Today, she examined crime in the most dangerous neighborhoods along the Pinellas Trail. In every case, it decreased once the trail had been built. Cyclists and walkers tend to be law-abiding. Once trails draw a steady stream of them, Bradburn said, they became a "crime watch mechanism.''

Also, real estate agents told her they couldn't keep houses near the trail in stock. And the buyers who wanted trail access tended to be "quality people — people who appreciate the outdoors, people who exercise and who usually have the financial wherewithal to improve their properties.''

It's nice to have actual proof for a claim I've made before: that trails and the access they bring are nothing to fear. That message seems to be getting out, Bradburn said. "We've met with people several times, and they seem to understand it a lot better.''

Of course, this doesn't mean the trail will be finished anytime soon, and it doesn't excuse the city and county from blowing a grant last year that could have more than doubled the funds available for the project.

Still, its start is a sign of progress. And I'm not just talking about construction.

Brooksville's racism no longer a barrier to the Good Neighbor Trail project 05/21/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 21, 2009 5:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. South Korea military: North Korea fires unidentified projectile


    SEOUL — North Korea launched a ballistic missile early today that flew 280 miles and landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone, the South Korean military and the Japanese government said.

    S. Korean President Moon Jae-in is assessing the launch.
  2. Rays blow lead, rally, blow lead, rally again to beat Twins in 15 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays sure made it interesting Sunday, taking an early lead, watching their beleaguered bullpen blow it, rallying to tie in the ninth, battling the Twins to take a lead in the 14th then giving it up again.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 28: Evan Longoria #3 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates scoring a run against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on May 28, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010990
  3. Marijuana extract sharply cuts seizures in severe form of epilepsy


    An oil derived from the marijuana plant sharply reduces violent seizures in young people suffering from a rare, severe form of epilepsy, according to a study published last week that gives more hope to parents who have been clamoring for access to the medication.

  4. 'I ain't fit to live': Police say Mississippi gunman kills 8


    BROOKHAVEN, Miss. — A man who got into an argument with his estranged wife and her family over his children was arrested Sunday in a house-to-house shooting rampage in rural Mississippi that left eight people dead, including his mother-in-law and a sheriff's deputy.

    People embrace Sunday outside the Bogue Chitto, Miss., house where eight people were killed during a shooting rampage Saturday in Lincoln County, Miss.
  5. Kushner's Russia ties questioned as Trump cites media 'lies'


    WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats on Sunday demanded to hear directly from top White House adviser Jared Kushner over allegations of proposed secret back-channel communications with Russia, saying the security clearance of President Donald Trump's son-in-law may need to be revoked.