By Sharon Still
The Hillsborough County Commission recently allocated $400,000 for the design of Phase One of the South Coast Greenway Trail, a trail that when completed is expected to run for ten linear miles west of Interstate 75, connecting Little Manatee River Preserve and Gibsonton.
The Greenway Trail Project started in the mid-1980s in the State of Florida with the goal of creating a new type of public amenity. In cooperation with the Office of Greenways and Trails (OGT), dozens of these greenway trails have been created from the Florida Keys to the Panhandle. The South County trail has been on Hillsborough County plans for more than 18 years and Sandra Murman, Vice Chair of Hillsborough County Commission District One, said that public interest and available funding is what has brought it back to the forefront.
Phase One is approximately two miles long between College Avenue and 19th Avenue. According to Murman, upon approval and through an agreement with TECO, the alignment will utilize the TECO right-of-way and a corridor along Wolf Branch Creek provided by the developers of the Hawk’s Point subdivision.
Murman added that the remaining dollars will be allocated in next year’s budget after the design is complete and cost is determined for the building phase.
“Trails have numerous benefits,” stated Murman. “They provide connectivity between communities, provide children a safe way to walk or ride a bike to school, as well as offer an alternate way to get to school or shopping without a vehicle.”
She added, “Schools will use the trails for field trips and of course, they provide an excellent way to exercise and just enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment.
“The South Coast Greenway Trail will be one of the most exciting additions to South County,” said Murman. “It will be safer for cyclists, pedestrians and runners.”
“I think this will be a great addition to the area,” said Ruskin resident, Troy Howard.
When the trail and subsequent phases will actually come to fruition is still unknown. Murman pointed out, “Until funding becomes available, the schedule is unknown.”
Regardless, she said, “These are exciting times for South County. The quality of life has vastly improved with the addition of the YMCA, road improvements and a new Firehouse Cultural Center.
For more information, contact project manager Richard Sanders of Hillsborough County’s Public Works Department at 307-1840 or visit www.fgtf.org.