Recently, a plan to open up Tampa’s Riverwalk on the water behind a cruise ship terminal at the port appeared to hit a wall.
Now Tampa officials are exploring another Riverwalk-related proposal: extending the popular 2.6-mile recreational path that runs along the water’s edge through downtown north along the port area from the Florida Aquarium toward Ybor City.
A big difference between the two ideas? The proposed new path wouldn’t be on the water, like the rest of the Riverwalk, but near it.
“If we allow the Riverwalk to go along the water (at the port), it could be a disaster for the maritime industry,” said Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson, reviewing the preliminary proposal at a September Community Redevelopment Agency meeting.
Instead, the path would cut through existing port-area parking lots and walkways before veering over to Channelside Drive and turning east at Adamo Drive, according to a preliminary map shown at the meeting. But Carlson said a red line marking that path on the map “is just an arbitrary line to get feedback” and will likely move.
“When the cruise ships aren’t in, you’ll be able to see the water,” he said.
The majority of the land involved is owned by the port and the city.
Waterside access for the public at the port was a sticking point for a recent Riverwalk proposal supported by Mayor Jane Castor and other city stakeholders. They hoped to open up the area currently locked behind security gates behind cruise ship Terminal 2 — not far from where the Riverwalk ends — to extend the path along the water when no ships are in port.
Port officials expressed concerns, including over security, liability and loss of revenue. At a recent port board meeting, a study group offered up options from pricey to complex to routing riverwalkers up to a city street.
The mayor, who said a “very simply doable” idea was being made overly complicated, indicated after the meeting that the proposal did not seem to be a priority for the port or its board.
This latest idea, touted by Carlson, met with enthusiasm from other council members. Lynn Hurtak said she loved the concept, was fine with “not being on the water for the whole thing” and expressed a fascination with ships.
A trail through the industrial maritime area could highlight Tampa as a port city, Hurtak said. And, she said, “I think that kind of grittiness is, I mean, dare I say, it’s a little sexy.”
“We’re a city that’s really working,” Hurtak said. “We have a port and we have high-rises and we have the aquarium.”
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Council chairperson Guido Maniscalco talked about how this could extend the Riverwalk into the growth of the burgeoning Water Street area and the incoming Gas Worx development in Ybor City. The Riverwalk, he said, “is a jewel, and it’s just going to further expand there while also respecting maritime properties.”
Asked by the Tampa Bay Times about the preliminary proposal, Port Tampa Bay spokesperson Lisa Wolf-Chason replied via email: “As we come up with our strategic plans for our property for the next decades, we will be looking to create a working maritime waterfront that maximizes growth and sustainability with our community.”
Council members voted for staff to return Dec. 14 with feedback from the community.