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New Port Richey expands access to city preserve

NEW PORT RICHEY – Plans are moving forward for New Port Richey to expand and build a second entrance into its slice of old Florida, the James E. Grey Preserve.

The New Port Richey City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to spend $108,000 for engineering services to design a second entrance and build amenities on nearly 7 acres of land the city acquired along Congress Street at Louisiana Avenue, and another adjacent 7 acres the city purchased to connect to the preserve’s existing footprint.

Plans are to connect the newly purchased land with the existing 80-acre preserve, which has an entrance on Plathe Road, just off Rowan Road. Council members approved a task order that includes engineering for the new entrance at Congress, a shell parking area there, landscaping, park signs, a 544-square-foot restroom, 740 feet of walking and bike trails, and a 40-foot pedestrian bridge over the Pithlachascotee River to connect to the existing trails.

Council members touted it as a major enhancement to the preserve that will be an environmentally conscious way to provide further access to the park. City Council member Matt Murphy described it as a “gem,” especially from the peaceful view of a kayak.

“It really makes you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, which is rare these days,” he said. “I am really looking forward to it. It really is a gem right here in our city.”

The Grey Preserve’s new planned entrance is around the corner from Gulf Middle School, so Mayor Rob Marlowe said he looks forward to science excursions taking place there. He said the area is so untouched that exploration feels like a trip back to Florida of 300 years ago.

“It’s absolutely gorgeous,” he said.

Former New Port Richey City Council member Bill Phillips, who voted for the land purchases on previous councils, said the property had been zoned for a mobile home park, so buying it for preservation as a park was a major win. He urged the city to tread lightly with construction, to which council members agreed.

“I trust that we are going to do this as tactfully and respectfully to the environment as possible,” Deputy Mayor Jeff Starkey said.

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