Planners to hire consultant to design trails
TRINITY - A project is on the fast track to connect Pinellas and Pasco county trails, with the first phase through the Trinity area and later through Holiday. The concept could still slow to a crawl, however, once officials hunt for money to build the trails. Both counties have given the link between the trail in Pasco's Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park and the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail regional priority status, Manny Lajmiri, senior planner for the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization, said Friday. The existing paths already attract many bicyclists, joggers and pedestrians.Planners from the two counties will huddle today to finalize a task order to hire a consultant. The meeting will take place at Pinellas County's Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center, off Keystone Road in the East Lake area. The consultant would study the best route for the trail extension, drawing from the rough alignment sketched last year by county staff members. The link would extend the existing trail along Starkey Boulevard in Pasco south to the existing trails along East Lake Road and Keystone Road in Pinellas. Once a consultant is picked, the alignment study could take about two to three months, Lajmiri estimated. County officials could get the results by the middle of 2013, he expects. Then the search for money could begin to pay for construction. A number of years ago, Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough officials had preliminary talks about a possible link involving the Starkey and Pinellas trials and the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, in northwestern Hillsborough. Nothing, however, came of the idea. Pasco County officials took the first step in the proposed trail link with just Pinellas in October 2011. Maps with the proposed alignments of trails were first shown then. At the time, Lajmiri said not enough money was available. The projects appear on the long-range radar of Florida Department of Transportation, if money is found. Since then, both counties blessed the first phase, through Trinity, with priority status. Pasco MPO might be able to tap into its "enhancement funds," Lajmiri said last year. FDOT has state resources to help foot the bill for the trails. Pasco wants to build several trail segments, primarily along Mitchell Boulevard and Trinity Boulevard. Trails already are in the works along Little Road between S.R. 54 and Mitchell Boulevard. Additional trails would connect to the existing trails along Starkey Boulevard north of S.R. 54. That hooks into the trails that already weave through Starkey Wilderness Park. Pinellas County would further extend its trails along Keystone Road and East Lake Road to tie in with the Pasco additions. Later, along the coast in the Holiday area, one plan shows the extension of the Pinellas Trail from where it ends now at its northernmost point, at Tarpon Springs, to cross Alternate U.S. 19. The extension would go northwest and then follow Anclote Boulevard west along the Pasco-Pinellas line. Pasco would build trails going north along Baillies Bluff Road, passing through its Anclote River Park and Anclote Gulf Park. A spur line would extend up to Strauber Memorial Highway near the Key Vista Nature Park entrance. The trail through the Anclote parks would double back south to form a loop that would connect midway along Anclote Boulevard.