The Pasco County Metropolitan Area Planning Organization’s transportation planning needs tend to focus mostly on needed roads and on ways to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety.
But at the board’s meeting last month, discussion turned to a potential way to better plan connections between trail systems.
Pasco County already has a Vision Roadway map, which indicates where the county may want to build new roads, to link parts of the existing network, or extend existing roads to establish better connections.
Now, the Pasco MPO board is talking about the value of creating a similar “vision” map for trails.
This particular focus would be on “stand-alone” trails because trails already are included as part of the plan for new roads.
Carl Mikyska, the transportation planning organization’s executive director, prompted the discussion about trails at the board’s March 9 meeting.
As the county works on its comprehensive plan update, it will be charting its course for the future, he noted.
“We have vision roads, currently. Do we want to expand that concept to other transportation facilities, whether it be trails, transit, or so forth?” Mikyska asked the board.
The idea would be to identify and protect corridors the county may need in the future, he explained.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey — who is a passionate advocate for trails — consistently pushes developers to either include trails through their developments, provide ways to link up to existing trails, or both.
Obviously, she likes the Vision Trails idea.
Commissioner Ron Oakley supports it, too.
He’s especially interested in expanding links to equestrian trails, particularly in the Northeast Rural Area.
“We want to be sure that those are included in that map, so that can go out to the Green Swamp and those areas, so they can be used by horseback riders, and (for) all, not just for walkers,” Oakley said.
He added that people who are riding horses or pedaling bicycles should be able to connect to other parts of Pasco County.
Dade City Commissioner Scott Black said there should be a checklist to make sure that trails are being considered, as part of future transportation plans.
Starkey said the stand-alone trails ultimately need to connect to other parts of the network.
Pasco County Commission Chairman Jack Mariano threw in his support for developing a Vision Trails plan, too, characterizing it as “a great idea.”
In other discussion relating to trails, Starkey urged the county’s road planners to provide more space along roadsides, to allow trails to meander, instead of being stuck up right next to the road.
She also asked transportation planners to plan for trees, between the trail and the road, which would provide shade and help protect trail users.
“My problem with that is that there’s no room for any plantings to shade a trail, to shade a path,” Starkey said.
“The other thing that a tree will do, if you put it between the street and the path, is protect you if a car goes off,” she said, reminding her colleagues of the deaths that occurred when a couple riding a tandem bicycle was killed when a vehicle went off the road.
“Most counties are putting much more space between their curb and the multi-use path,” Starkey said, listing Leon, Sarasota and Manatee counties as examples.
“I think we could do much better,” Starkey said.
Black said Starkey’s suggestions make sense.
Besides providing additional safety for users, adding trees along the trail would make them more attractive for users, he said.
Mariano noted that care must be taken, if planting trees next to the street and the trail — to prevent future root damage from the trees.
Black agreed: “I understand, you do have to be careful about that.”
Pasco board members also said they’d like to explore whether it makes more sense to put 12-foot trails on both sides of a road, instead of a 12-foot-wide trail on one side and a 5-foot trail on the other.
If it’s not considerably more costly, the board may want to make that its new policy, Mariano suggested.
Staff members said it would take some time to research the costs and other details. They plan to bring a report back to the board.
Published April 05, 2023