Pinellas Trails Inc. Gears Up for Second Decade Celebration
Photo/text by Renee Burrell
A Pinellas Trail exhibit currently at the Largo Library tracks the urban greenway corridor's history and illustrates its links to many Pinellas parks, coastal areas and neighborhoods. The exhibit will be traveling throughout the county at different locations each month through December, 2010. Pictured: Coldwell Banker Realtor and VP of Pinellas Trails Inc. Scott Daniels, and the grandmother of The Pinellas Trail, Jean Halvorsen, honored for her early trail blazing and continued involvement as a Board Member of Pinellas Trails Inc. Both want to remind everyone to mark their calendars for December 4, 2010.
The Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary on Saturday, December 4, 2010. Local community, city, county, regional, state and national partners of the Trail are expected to participate in the anniversary of the community asset that residents and tourists of all ages and abilities enjoy.
And there is cause for a celebration. Today the trail and its spurs span 50 miles that pass through nine municipalities. Monthly, an estimated 90,000 people enjoy exercising and using the Trail for recreational purposes as well as heavily utilizing it as an alternative commuter transportation option.
The Trail had a bumpy start. Its birth came in 1983 after a fatal biking accident motivated the victim's father, Bert Valery, to form the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organizations Bicycle Advisory Committee. Lobbying county officials, raising community consciousness, and developing fundraising strategies were obstacles that had to be overcome before trail construction was approved. Working with the Pedestrian Safety Committee, and former County Administrator Fred Marquis, on December 1, 1990, the group succeeded in opening the first five mile length of the trail from Seminole City Park to Taylor Park along the former CSX railroad easement.
Scott Daniels, vice president of the non-profit Pinellas Trails, Inc., said, "When the "rails-to-trails concept" was first presented to our citizens and our governments; it became a no-brainer and made great sense that having a linear park from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg where we could walk, bicycle, in-line skate, use for getting to local schools, shops and other work destinations would be a better decision. Our elected officials, county and municipal governments and citizens embarked on a "public/private partnership" along with our non-profit, volunteer, citizens' organization, Pinellas Trails, Inc. to create something special along the former railroad easement."
Pinellas Trails, Inc. raises private donations for the amenities that can be found along the trail, including benches, tables, water fountains, and litter receptacles. They support a "Trees For The Trail Fund" that adds additional landscaping along the trail; and their Auxiliary Team of volunteers devote at least 12 hours a month on the trail assisting trail users and acting as 'the eyes and ears' of the trail.
Last year, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy recognized the Trail as the third inductee to their national "Hall of Fame". The Conservancy's mission it is to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people. Hall of Fame inductees are selected based upon their merits such as scenic value, use, amenities, historical significance, management, maintenance, community connections and geographic distribution. Past trails that have received the designation include the Minuteman Bikeway in Boston, the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle, the Katy Trail State Park in Missouri and the Great Allegheny Passage in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
"The success that the trail has had is because there has been a continued commitment by our county and local governments and our citizen's organization, Pinellas Trails, Inc. to insure that the trail remains the second most popular amenity --after our world famous Gulf of Mexico beaches. That success has been modeled across the country by other communities responding to abandoned railroad corridors. There are now over 1,000 trail projects with many more being planned," said Daniels.
An extension of the existing Trail to form a loop through the entire County that will connect major destinations is underway.
According to Daniels, "Additional sections have been connected in St. Petersburg from the Gibbs High School area to the downtown/Straub Park area and along 1st Street North up to the northeast section of the city. The overpass at US Highway 19 and Enterprise Road is completed to eventually connect the trail through Clearwater (the Progress Energy Trail now goes from Belleair Road to Brighthouse Field, by the Clearwater campus of St. Petersburg College). Upcoming plans for the widening of Tarpon Avenue/Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs will connect the western, trail corridor to East Lake Road and Brooker Creek Preserve. Additional sections will be the focus to complete "the loop" with the expectation that it will be completed by 2020."
For more information and to keep abreast of updates for the Second Decade Celebration, visit Pinellas Trails, Inc's website: www.pinellastrails.org and www.pinellascounty.org, where a free guide to the trail is available. The Guide can also be obtained at the Trail office, 12020 Walsingham Road, in Largo, at area libraries and the Pinellas County Courthouse Information Desk.
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