By Kyle LoJacono
The Hillsborough County Commission recently voted to add 4.2 miles to the Upper Tampa Bay Trail in Lutz and Odessa, but a 2.6-mile hole remains in the plan.
The trail will be added from near the intersection of Gunn Highway and Peterson Road in Odessa north to where the Suncoast Trail ends near W. Lutz-Lake Fern Road in Lutz. However, the Tampa trail will not connect with its southern portion because of a 2.6-mile gap.
Project manager Bill Hand said there are four people who own the property near Peterson who are unwilling to sell their land to the county. Hand said the overall goal is to connect the trails, which would create 59 miles of continuous pathways from Tampa to Citrus County.
Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department spokesman John Brill said the commission told his department they are still committed to creating the continuous route. The commission is unwilling to use eminent domain to force the landowners to sell their property at this time and is looking at alternatives for the trail.
The project is moving forward faster than expected after the commission voted to use available county and Southwest Florida Water Management District money. A start date is not yet set, but the project is planned to begin in the spring 2012 and is scheduled for completion by that October.
The cost of the project is $8 million with no significant operating cost added after completion. The job includes creating two trailhead parking areas, one near the intersection of Van Dyke Road and Gunn and the other on Lutz-Lake Fern Road halfway between the street’s intersections with the Suncoast Parkway and Gunn.
The original plan for the Tampa trail addition was to use Florida Department of Transportation Department money, but doing so would delay the completion until at least 2015.
Lutz resident Mike Rainer, 36, is a distance runner who uses the Suncoast Trail every morning in Pasco County. He runs about 10 miles each morning and is happy with the thought of having more pathways.
“That’s great news,” Rainer said. “We live in a state were we can go outside and enjoy the nice weather. It’ll be great to have more trails to go out and enjoy.”
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