The City of San Antonio is raising objections to one of the paths for the proposed 37-mile Orange Belt Trail, intended for runners, walkers and cyclists to make their way across Pasco County.
As envisioned, the trail will be a multi-use path from Trinity to Trilby.
San Antonio officials have declared their opposition, specifically, to the proposed B1 Route of the trail, citing concerns by residents that the path is too close to private homes and could result in various negative impacts.
The objections are outlined in a Sept. 20 letter to the Pasco County Commission, from Mayor John Vogel II, Mayor pro-tempore Mark B. Anderson and commissioners Alison Cagle, Kevin Damic and Sarah Schrader.
Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley, whose district stretches across about half of Pasco County, including San Antonio, asked Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller Nikki Alvarez-Sowles to read a letter into the record, at the county board’s Nov. 14 meeting.
The letter notes that the city appreciates the county’s efforts to expand recreational opportunities and promote connectivity.
However, the city officials said, as representatives of the residents of San Antonio, they felt compelled to do their “due diligence in protecting the interests and well-being of our community.”
The letter adds: “We believe that the proposed B1 Route poses significant drawbacks and concerns for our community.
“Route B1 of the Orange Belt Trail Route intersects with several residential neighborhoods, leading to concerns of privacy, safety, and noise pollution.
“The increased foot and bicycle traffic in these areas may disrupt the tranquility and security that residents have long enjoyed in their homes, qualities many have sought after and appreciated in their decision to call San Antonio home.
“Moreover, the potential for increase in littering, vandalism and other undesirable activities along the trail is a worry for many.”
City commissioners also noted they’ve been approached by residents “with fears of eminent domain, and discomfort with having a public trail in close proximity to their private homes and yards.
“Traffic congestion and safety are additional worries associated with the B1 Route.
“Sections of the trail would intersect with small residential streets — including Railroad Avenue, Michigan Avenue and Joe Hermann Drive, creating potential hazards for residents of the streets, trail users and motorists,” the letter adds.
Safety is a major issue, too.
An increase of pedestrians and cyclists, particularly near Curley Street, city leaders wrote, “would lead to an uptick in accidents endangering lives and property.”
The letter also raises concerns about a lack of community involvement in the process.
“We believe that the proposed Orange Belt Trail Route does not adequately consider the preferences and needs of our community,” the letter says.
“We feel that our concerns have not been adequately addressed,” it adds.
Communication has been lacking, too, city leaders say.
“Paths for the proposed routes have changed between public meetings, with sparse details available, leading to confusion and uncertainty over who will be impacted by the project.
“We urge the Pasco County Board of County Commissioners to undertake a more comprehensive and inclusive community engagement process to ensure that the trail aligns with the wishes and values of our residents,” the letter continues.
The city leaders urge the county board to reject the B1 Route within San Antonio.
“While we are not opposed to the Orange Belt Trail as a project overall, we are strongly opposed to any route that would run adjacent to any of the city of San Antonio residential streets.
“Routes B2 and B3, adjacent to State Road 52 and County Road 52, would have a less significant impact on the City of San Antonio community and residents.
“We believe that a more thoughtful and community-driven approach is necessary to address the concerns of residents, protect our environment and enhance our city’s recreational offerings.
“We look forward to further dialogue and collaboration with the Pasco County Board of County Commissioners to find a solution that benefits our community as a whole,” the letter says.
Concerns about the alignment of the Orange Belt Trail have been voiced throughout community meetings regarding planning for the recreational path.
Property owners have voiced worries that they could lose portions of their land through eminent domain to make way for the trail.
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, a staunch advocate for trails, in general, and for the Orange Belt Trail, in particular, has proclaimed those fears are unfounded. There are no plans for the county to take property against property owner wishes for the Orange Belt Trail, Starkey has said repeatedly at public meetings.
While acknowledging the concerns that have been raised about the Orange Belt Trail’s path, Oakley has said he believes a path will be found to move the project forward.
The Orange Belt Trail will, more or less, follow the path of the old railway and will link communities such as Trinity, Odessa, Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel and Dade City.
It is expected to have recreational and economic opportunities along the way and will make use of the Coast-to-Coast Trail, Starkey Trail, Suncoast Trail and Withlacoochee Trail. The multi-use trail is expected to be 12 feet to 14 feet wide, and will be paved, but portions of the path also could incorporate equestrian uses.
Published December 06, 2023