It's been five years since Nancy Stearns began her crusade to bring a safer sidewalk to the western edge of Dawnview Drive. And it seems her zeal has paid off.
Next month the county will begin digging up the narrow asphalt walkway and will replace it with a standard 5-foot-wide concrete sidewalk.
Stearns said it's been a dangerous situation along the nearly half-mile stretch between Deerglen Drive and Northdale Boulevard: loose asphalt, uneven pavement and a gaping hole with fallen barricades in its cavity.
"I walk on that sidewalk every single day, and I'm tired of tripping," said the Bay Levitt subdivision homeowner.
"I've observed children walking to the school bus and tripping and falling," Stearns said. "One boy fell flat on his face right in front of me."
So she turned to the county for help. She made phone calls and attended public meetings "but got nowhere," she said.
Stearns thinks it was the photographic evidence she brought to a meeting two years ago that finally caught the county's attention. "They were embarrassed that a sidewalk in Hillsborough County was in that kind of condition," she said.
"I wouldn't even call it a sidewalk," said county spokesman Steve Valdez.
Valdez said the sidewalk's replacement has remained on the county's project list for 10 years but "kept getting bumped" off the schedule. The county's "sidewalk needs are so much greater than our funding allows," Valdez said.
But before construction begins on the new sidewalk, county officials said many pine trees lining Dawnview must be removed because the roots "are causing the sidewalk to upheave," said John Newton of the county's Public Works Department.
Valdez said the pine trees were planted along the right of way about 20 years ago as part of a neighborhood landscaping project.
"Unfortunately, they were planted too close to the sidewalk," Stearns said.
Tree root damage to sidewalks isn't uncommon, Valdez said. "Trees are a problem with sidewalks everywhere. Anything with a large root structure is a problem."
And aside from the root damage, Valdez said there's no space to install a regulation-sized sidewalk if the trees remain. "There's barely enough room (right now) for the trees and the little asphalt sidewalk," Valdez said.
Crews should begin tearing up the old asphalt path in February, barring weather conditions.