By Linda Chion
Paved and unpaved trails for fitness, sports, recreation and transportation, and adding a lot more of them, is representative of the work of Hillsborough County officials set to update the Greenways Master Plan, which affects bikers, boaters, equestrians and pedestrians alike.
That’s what brought John Patrick, the county’s division director for strategic infrastructure planning, to the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library in Valrico in July, as well as to the SouthShore Regional Library in Ruskin and the Jimmie B. Keel Regional Library in Tampa. An August 1 virtual meeting was scheduled as well.
Hillsborough County commissioners, at their March 23 meeting, approved an update to the 1995 Hillsborough Greenways Master Plan. Recommendations for a variety of greenways, including natural surfaces, paved trails, natural surface trails and blueways (or recreational waterways) were to be presented at the board’s August 15 meeting.
“The philosophy of the master plan then concerned quality of life infrastructure, providing trails as a place to bike safely and take the family for a walk,” Patrick said at the Bloomingdale Library meeting. “Now the philosophy is changing to include trails needed to go places for work as well.”
At the library meetings, attendees listened to a project overview, accessible as well on the county’s virtual engagement and education hub, which also asked for comments from equestrians, mountain bikers, hikers and more.
“We want residents to tell us where they would put their money, we want them to give us input on that,” Patrick said. “Not surprising, it is Florida, we heard people want shaded trees along the trails. They want shared-use pads, for sharing trails with bikers and pedestrians, and they want connectivity. They want to go somewhere.”
Indeed, at the Bloomingdale Library on July 26, posted comments included demands for more mountain bike trails and dedicated bike lanes; sidewalk improvements and additions; wildlife corridors; destination features, including brew pubs and live music; and connectivity improvements, such as to schools, stores and restaurants. One comment asked for connecting the Croom Rital Road trail to the Valrico/Lithia area.
While broad in many aspects, some recommendations were more particular in nature, including one for trail repaving at Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park and one for another canoe launch on the Alafia River. Another comment, broad in nature, asked for sidewalks and bike lanes on county roads (Boyette, Bloomingdale, Nature’s Way, Lithia Pinecrest, Bell Shoals and Pearson and Dover) as well as good drainage on Culbreath, Nature’s Way and Bloomingdale sidewalks.
Patrick said all input is welcome, valid and necessary, as the unmet need for paved and unpaved trails amounts to roughly $273 million.
“It’s very important to look at more trails, how we can meet the needs of residents and how many we need as well,” Patrick said. “We don’t want to build what people don’t use when the need might be greater somewhere else.”
To read online comments and view the Greenways Master Plan update overview, including maps, cost and timelines details, visit www.publicinput.com/D2816. To view county agendas and meetings, visit www.hcflgov.net.