The ‘soft opening’ of the Starkey Gap Trail has generated some concerns about safety.
The new segment of trail creates a connection between Pasco and Pinellas counties, and is an important link in the Coast to Coast Connector Trail, running from Saint Petersburg to Titusville.
The estimated $2.6 million Starkey Gap Trail project starts south of Trinity Boulevard, in Pinellas County, heads north connecting to State Road 54 and goes west on the corridor to intersect with Starkey Boulevard.
The Starkey Gap Trail isn’t officially open yet, but that hasn’t stopped people from using it, said Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.
Starkey has noticed a safety concern involving those walking the north end to the south end of State Road 54, to get to the trail.
As she put it: “They have been left in the little strip of concrete in the middle of State Road 54, absolutely terrified.”
She’s been vocal about getting an overpass over State Road 54, to solve that problem.
The overpass could would connect the north end and south end of the corridor, while avoiding motorists.
Starkey said she’s been discussing short-term solutions with David Gwynn, secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) district seven.
The state is looking into potential funding sources, she said.
Starkey said a proper trailhead is needed too, to discourage those who use the trail from parking on the grass along Trinity Boulevard. A trailhead typically is located where the trail begins, and includes parking, so people can unload their bicycles.
It would be a means of offsetting parking buildup for establishments, and their patrons, off of Trinity Boulevard – such as Fox Hollow Golf Club and Restaurant.
Starkey noted: “If you’ve ever tried to park there for a lunch meeting or anything, [there] is very small parking. They’ve even had to pull off to the grass under the trees on the right.
“They’re not going to be happy if people are parking in their parking lot, for the trail, which goes right by there.”
Pasco County did not include the installation of a trailhead in its original plans for the project, but Starkey said she and Sam Beneck, a county project manager, have “identified a couple places that could be a temporary trailhead,” including Duke Energy property.
Advocating for trails and trail safety is nothing new for Starkey.
She frequently asks questions about potential trail connections during Pasco County Commission public hearings, to make sure potential linkages are protected.
She also is known for her work in the arena of bicycle safety, receiving the 2018 Elected Official Champion of the Year from the Florida Bicycle Association.
In bestowing the honor last year, Becky Alfonso, executive director of the association, praised Starkey’s work.
“Her experience, tenacity and public service record are admirable and inspirational,” Alfonso said, at the time.
Published February 05, 2020