Bicycle enthusiasts are about to be able to enjoy an uninterrupted ride between the Suncoast Parkway and the Pithlachascotee River. Construction just started on a three-phased, 2.34-mile project to link the parkway's trailhead within Starkey Wilderness Park to Starkey Boulevard at Alico Pass. Scheduled for a July completion, the $458,900 project, financed with Penny for Pasco sales tax proceeds, calls for replacing some existing sidewalks with wider, multiuse paths and building a connection along Wilderness Park Road from Starkey Boulevard to the park entrance.
These are the final legs of the trail from Grand Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue in New Port Richey to the Suncoast Parkway. It will provide a safe haven for bicycle enthusiasts from urbanized western Pasco to the remote wilderness of the park and beyond to the popular trail abutting the parkway from Lutz to Citrus County.
The safety of a trail exclusively for bicyclists and pedestrians is an imperative aspect in light of the deaths of 10 bicyclists on the roads in the Tampa Bay area in the last six months of 2010. Likewise, Pasco County traffic statistics showed 92 injuries and two deaths from 137 car-bicyclist accidents in 2009.
The trail is part of Pasco's long-range plan for tens of millions of dollars worth of bicycle and pedestrian paths to be constructed along natural gas and water transmission lines and as part of highway projects.
The ongoing widening of U.S. 41 in Land O'Lakes, for instance, also includes a separate multiuse path that has prevented bicycle traffic from mingling with motorized vehicles on the main highway.
The completed trail from New Port Richey to Starkey Park and the parkway also will mesh well with Pasco's efforts promoting sports marketing and ecotourism to lure out-of-town visitors. Starkey Park, for instance, is the site of a nonprofit group's running and cycling event on March 12. The next day, the second annual GearLink Cup, a bicycle road race, is scheduled for Orange Lake in downtown New Port Richey.
So, just imagine the potential for future tourism pitches to both locals and visitors alike.
Pasco County: Bike safely from the water to the wilderness.