Seeking ways to link local and state trails

A study that will guide decisions on how to build and connect multipurpose trails in the Dade City area with the Withlacoochee State Trail is narrowing down the options.

But, at the mid-point in the Withlacoochee Trail Connector Study, consultants are still gathering public input before singling out a recommended trail path.

On Aug. 10, about 20 residents met with Pasco County officials and AECOM consultants to study maps and swap ideas on how to link Hardy Trail in Dade City with the Withlacoochee State Trail, off U.S. 301.

About 20 area residents attended an open house to learn of plans to link Hardy Trail in Dade City with the Withlacoochee State Trail. (Kathy Steele)

“We want to know what the community thinks,” said Paul Kurtz of AECOM. “This is going to be your trail.”

The public meeting at the Historic Pasco County Courthouse in Dade City was the second in a series of proposed meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for October, with a date to be determined.

The study’s conclusion, and a trail recommendation to the Pasco County Commission, is expected in December.

The maps on display outlined three trail options, but Kurtz said, “Don’t get hung up on three (trails). You can make your own. They can be combined in any way.”

The final recommended trail route, he added, likely would be some combination of the three current options under review.

More than 5 miles of trail will be constructed. One segment will link the northern end of an existing trail on U.S. 301 to the southern end of the existing Hardy Trail in Dade City. An extension of Hardy Trail will connect with the southern end of the Withlacoochee State Trail at the Owensboro Junction Trailhead.

One proposed route would follow along U.S. 301 and utilize an extension of Morningside Drive, not yet built. Other suggestions pull in combinations of Lock Street, 14th Street, Frazee Road, Powerline Road, Beth Street, Long Avenue, Corbett Road, Old Trilby Road, Christian Road, and a swath of land at one time proposed for a wastewater treatment facility.

Area residents have proposed an equestrian park there instead of the treatment plant.

Some segments of the trail will be multipurpose, allowing for pedestrians and bicyclists. But, other segments, particularly those navigating through Dade City, might not have enough land to accommodate every trail use.

Sharrow symbols to mark roadways shared by bicyclists and motorists could be used instead of dedicated trail lanes.

However, traffic volume along busy corridors, such as U.S. 301, might require dedicated trail lanes. “Wouldn’t it be nice to stay off there (U.S. 301) because there are so many cars there?” Kurtz said.

Resident Judy Geiger asked that equestrians be included when considering trail designs and paths. She noted that the Withlacoochee State Trail is equestrian-friendly. It makes sense to consider horseback riding, if new trail segments would connect to the state park’s trail, Geiger said.

“We’re in a very rural area,” she said. “There are a lot of equestrians in east Pasco.”

Thought also should be given to trail markers that could highlight the area’s history, said Nancy Stuparich, who is an avid cyclist.

She said bikers are always looking for information or things to do in the areas where they ride.

“This could be an opportunity to discover some hidden historical jewels,” Stuparich said.

Published August 23, 2017

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