DADE CITY — The depot that used to cater to rail passengers in Dade City won’t be doing likewise for bicycle riders.
Plans for a bicycle hub and welcome center at the historic Dade City Train Depot are taking a detour. City officials now want to incorporate the bicycle center into the planned park at Church and Eighth streets.
Last week, Dade City Community Development Director Melanie Romagnoli previewed the plans for the Pasco Tourist Development Council, which previously had committed $250,000 toward renovating the depot into an amenity for sports and adventure tourism.
The depot’s location, along the heavily traveled U.S. 98 Bypass east of the city’s downtown district, is neither pedestrian- nor bicyclist-friendly, Romagnoli said. But the city park, already designated as the future home of a children’s splash pad, is a block from the downtown core and abuts the head of the city’s Roy Hardy Trail for bicyclists and pedestrians.
The city is extending the Hardy Trail northward along Eighth Street and wants to connect the south end to a trail that opened along U.S. 301 three years ago linking Dade City to Zephyrhills.
Moving the bicycle hub to the city park had plenty of fans, including cycling enthusiasts and business leaders.
“It’s the perfect center place for people to stop,’’ said Randall Stovall, chairman of a citizens committee advising county transportation planners on bicycle and pedestrian issues. “It’s great for the county and tourism and certainly great for Dade City.’’
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore, chairman of the Tourist Development Council, wanted assurances that the city project would make use of the $250,000 appropriation in the coming year, considering the county initially approved renovating the depot in 2016.
“I think several of us wanted this done yesterday,’’ said Dade City Mayor Camille Hernandez, a member of the tourism board. “It’s important to us. We can’t wait much longer.’’
The city is scheduled to close on the purchase of the 2.23-acre park site in December. The city is spending $800,000 toward the acquisition and property owner Otto Weitzenkorn is donating the $362,000 balance of the $1.162 million sale price.
The city’s proposed timeline calls for construction of the bike hub to begin in April and be concluded by April 2021. The city plans to use the $250,000 from the tourism fund to pay for design, engineering and construction. The design of the building is not yet known, but it is intended to include a visitor’s information center, brochure kiosks, wifi service, public restrooms, and exterior bike parking and repair stations for traveling cyclists.
The tourist dollar investment is aimed at luring more riders to spend time in Dade City and east Pasco. This year, for instance, nearby counties benefited from the non-profit Bike Florida’s annual spring bike tour. The ride in Citrus and Hernando counties drew 650 riders, 70 percent of whom came from out of state. They spent an estimated $408,000 within the two counties during the multi-day event, Bike Florida said.
Completing the entire city park could be several years away. It other proposed amenities include the splash pad, playground, amphitheater, concession and parking. It has an estimated budget of just less than $3.3 million.
The 1912 depot property — which over the past three decades has served as a stop for Amtrak passengers, a temporary City Hall and a museum — will remain the home of the Dade City Heritage and Cultural Museum.