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Suncoast Trail beckons with 41 miles of freedom

A biker pedals the Suncoast Trail along the expressway exit at State Road 54 in Odessa. The trail opened in 2001.

MIKE CAMUNAS | Times

A biker pedals the Suncoast Trail along the expressway exit at State Road 54 in Odessa. The trail opened in 2001.

For the most part, you can see — and use it — for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles. Oh, yeah.

That aside, the Suncoast Trail is a rather impressive accessory of the North Suncoast. Stretching through three counties, that long and semi-windy path that parallels the Suncoast Parkway is perfect for bikers, runners, dog walkers, in-line skaters, hikers — pretty much any recreational activity that you can think of.

Drive by any one of the seven trailheads — such as the one at State Road 54 in Odessa, which has a large, always-full parking lot, or the one at SR 50, which has restrooms and a mechanical air pump for bikers — and there are always certain to be users, outdoors enthusiasts. Even the mile markers are easily seen on the trail, making keeping track of distance a breeze.

Though it's beneficial to have a trail such as this one, it's even more lucky to have one in the North Suncoast's back yard.

People seem to be grateful, too, whether they're just finding out about it or have been using it since it opened in 2001.

So we decided to find out what people think of the Suncoast Trail. Here's what a handful of random people had to say when asked, "Why do you use the trail and why do you like to use it?"

"I love the relaxation on the trail and it really is a great place to walk my dog. When I'm out here with my dog, I don't have to worry about cars."

Tim Long, 47, of Spring Hill, who was walking his dog, which didn't enjoy being interrupted for his owner to answer the question

"I love this trail. I've been biking here for about two years and I like making it up to (Jay B.) Starkey (Wilderness) Park because of that bathroom up there."

Ann Rodenbeck, 48, of Odessa, who adds that when nature calls for her, it's actually the woods and foliage that are calling

"The trail and its sidewalks that lead me here make it an affordable pastime, and I've enjoyed biking since childhood. In this economy, its a inexpensive way to spend your free time."

Ann Hines, 55, of Spring Hill, who finds biking to and from the trail to ride it her way to go green for the environment

"I like using the upper half of the trail because it's hilly. That's great for training and train is what I want to do."

Doug Saslow, 59, of Tampa, who's not training for anything in particular or for a competitive event, just training because he can

"It's free! But mostly because it's safe and in a straight line, making it easier to ride, which makes it better than for him (her son) to go around and around in circles in the driveway."

Christine Peterson, 31, of Weeki Wachee, who was teaching her son, Jason, to ride his bike and needed open space

"I would call this an undiscovered gem. Seems like only a handful people know about it, but it's a great find for any newcomer."

Chris Donahue, 42, of Land O'Lakes, who found the trail a month ago and was floored by the length and freedom of use

"I'm getting up in age. I need the exercise to keep the weight down and I could walk around my house, but here on the trail I have the woods. There's no woods in my kitchen and living room."

Ron LaPortie, 78, of Spring Hill, who uses the trail daily and brings a putter along as a walking stick

"We come from Minneapolis, which has an amazing trail system, so we're kind of spoiled. However, this isn't bad. It's shaded enough, so that's good."

Donald Pudas, 42, of Minneapolis, who is a hiking enthusiast, and despite hailing from one of the Twin Cities, was wearing a sweatshirt for the Green Bay Packers, the hated rival of the Minnesota Vikings

"When I ran (the) Gasparilla (5K run) in 2006, I used this to train and have been coming back ever since. I love to run 5Ks, so this is my home field where I train, especially since it has mile markers."

Ashley Haselwood, 40, of Lutz, who finds herself waving at nearly every passer-by, despite getting lost in her music sometimes

"There's nothing to do in this town. It gives kids things to do and even gives the elderly something to do. We all need something to ride on and to help keep anyone out of trouble."

Aaron Moore, 31, of Spring Hill, who was decked out in Lance Armstrong costume for one of his regular rides from SR 50 to the end of the trail at Ponce de Leon Boulevard

"It gives me a nice quiet run and I don't have to worry about traffic. I may have to listen to traffic (from the parkway), but it's still peaceful. I want a peaceful run."

Jerry Hill, 61, of Masaryktown, who uses the trail three or four times a week, and looks 10 years younger than his age and puts Jack LaLanne to shame

Fast facts

Suncoast Trail

Length: 41.3 miles

Opened: 2001

Cost: None

What's nearby: Tampa, Lutz, Odessa, Trinity, New Port Richey, Land O'Lakes, Spring Hill, Brooksville

For more information, visit www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/regions/westcentral/trails/
suncoast.htm.

Got game?

Contact community sports editor Mike Camunas and tell him what's happening. Call him at (352) 544-1771 or e-mail him at mcamunas@sptimes.com. We live in this community, so let's talk to each other.

Suncoast Trail beckons with 41 miles of freedom 02/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 11:49am]

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