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County asks state to buy land for recreation trail

Hillsborough's plans for a recreational trail along a former railroad line have taken their first step forward. County officials are asking the state to buy land for a nine-mile trail through Thonotosassa. The project would provide the first link in a proposed necklace of trails throughout the county, officials said in their application.

"It's a significantly large first step, because of the trail's nine-mile length, and would provide a window for people into some environmentally sensitive land that the county and state own (in the area)," Commissioner Jan Platt said Monday.

The trail, dubbed the Old Fort King Trail, runs parallel to U.S. 301 and would connect the Tampa Bypass Canal near Temple Terrace to Hillsborough River State Park. The property is an abandoned CSX Transportation railroad corridor, with most of the land still owned by CSX or government agencies.

County officials estimate the land would cost $1.45-million. Private groups and perhaps the county would provide money to develop the trail and for amenities, such as benches, picnic areas and water fountains.

The fact that the county would run the trail is a plus, said Greg Diehl, a trails planner for the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Some of the other nine applications the DNR received ask the state to operate trails as well.

"Managing the trail is a pretty substantial asset for Hillsborough," Diehl said. The state doesn't expect to operate more trails, just provide money to buy them, he said.

The state has $3.9-million to spend in 1992 to buy rail-trails. A state advisory board will recommend projects in early August, and the governor and Cabinet will make a final decision by the end of the year, Diehl said.

The state has spent about $4-million on such projects since 1987, Diehl said.

Converting rails to trails is an increasingly popular way to supply recreational land in urbanized areas like Hillsborough. The county already has a small recreational loop trail off Morris Bridge Road, but trail supporters envision miles of trails throughout Hillsborough.

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