The Pasco County Parks, Recreation, and Natural Resources Department is looking for the missing links.
Throughout the county, there are numerous trails in many parks, reserves and even natural areas, all which provide some connectivity, but there are gaps.
The plan is to holistically study and understand the current and future opportunities for recreation such as walking, biking, hiking or paddling.
Although in its early stages, the Greenways, Trails, and Blueways Master Plan will cover all that, in the hopes to develop a county-wide network system of connected, recreational pathways that link parks and natural areas with neighborhoods, schools, shopping and more.
The plan builds on previous efforts to identify opportunities where the system can be expanded, or improved, as well as how to work within the public and private sectors to do so.
“This is the first step of many,” said Tammy Odierna, program manager for park planning and development. “We’re connecting neighborhoods, parks, schools, stores to the trails, which there isn’t that much connection right now. It’s important because the county is blowing up with development, and we want to make sure we give citizens access to everything the county has to offer.”
“There are a lot of missing links in recreational trails, cause in the past we focused more on commuting,” added Chieh Yang, a parks planner. “They were overlooked, so we’re hoping with this plan, it’s an opportunity to identify those links and see what people want for those recreational trails.”
That is why the parks department is first turning to the public, looking to get feedback from county residents about how they’ll use the network, as well as what they would like to see in the future of recreational trails.
This isn’t just pathways, both paved and unpaved. The plan also includes blueways, or bodies of water — rivers and creeks, etc. — that are meant for non-motorized vessels and usually include an access point.
“Really, this is a long time coming and it’s needed with all the growth in this county,” Odierna said. “The county is looking to have a better integrated system of greenways, trails and blueways, and the idea is to get public input so we can put together an idea of what we want to see and what the public wants to see happen.
“After the master plan is finalized, we’ll work off that and see what’s feasible, and look at what’s priority and what the citizens think is important.”
The Pasco County Commission approved a task order on July 12 to develop the master plan. This effort is driven by requirements in the Recreation and Open Space Element of the Pasco County Comprehensive Plan, including those set by Objective REC 1.6, Policy REC 1.6.7, and Policy REC 1.6.8. The recreational network effort also complements the Active Transportation Plan effort.
Those bylaws state the Parks Department will work with the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization and the master plan citizen’s committee to form the map, as well as implementing a “wayfinding” signage program for regional and district parks and recreation facilities throughout the county as new parks and trails are developed.
Odierna said in the early 2000s, an advisory committee for trails was put together, but never carried through with a whole master plan. Then, with the growth explosion in the county in the past 20 years, any existing plan would need updates.
“We have a lot of really awesome trails and this will allow us to add even more awesome trails,” she said.
The master plan in no way affects the county’s plan to link Trinity to Trilby: the Orange Belt Trail. The county is still developing that as a separate project that will link communities such as Trinity, Odessa, Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel and Dade City, and will provide both recreational and economic opportunities along the way.
That trail is expected to be a 12- to 14-foot-wide paved multi-use trail, but will, eventually, have connections to the current and other future trails that are or will be included in the master plan.
For now, the Parks Department is still receiving feedback through an online survey and public workshops, with another planned for late April. The hope is to get a master plan draft done by early summer.
As for the feedback already received?
“More shading, more benches, more parks connecting to trails,” Yang said. “Like on the Suncoast Trail, there are a lot of spots that could use more shading, and this will give us a chance to address more access points on the blueways.”
Yang added: “People want to be able to walk and bike to a nearby trail, so they don’t have to drive or walk a street without sidewalks.
“This is a great opportunity to see the kind of potential Pasco County can have when it comes to trails.”
Pasco County Greenways, Trails and Blueways Master Plan
The Pasco County Commission approved a task order on July 12 to develop a Greenways, Trails and Blueways Master Plan, which is a county-wide system of connected, recreational greenways, trails and blueways that link parks and natural areas with neighborhoods, schools, shopping and other locations. The Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department also is working with county residents to get feedback on how they’ll use the network, as well as what they would like to see in the future.
To complete the 10-minute survey before Feb. 17, visit SurveyMonkey.com/r/PASCOGTB.
What are Greenways, Trails and Blueways?
Greenway: Any linear facility (paved or unpaved) intended to provide a range of recreational opportunities (active and passive) including, but not limited to walking, running or jogging, biking, hiking, paddling or equestrian uses
Blueway: Any designated route (marked or unmarked) intended for use by non-motorized vessels propelled by paddles and often include an access point
Multi-use trail: Any wide, paved or natural-surface trail, located in its own exclusive right of way separate from a roadway, intended for shared use of people walking, bike riding or other related activities
Single-use trail: Any paved or natural-surface trail, located in its own exclusive right of way separate from a roadway, intended for a single primary use, such as hiking, off-road biking, equestrian and so on
Shared-use path: Any wide, paved surface, located directly along a roadway, intended for the shared use of people walking and riding bikes or related devices.
Published February 01, 2023
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