Becky Afonso, executive director of the Florida Bicycle Association, recently honored Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey as its 2018 Elected Official Champion of the Year.
Afonso highlighted Starkey’s tenacity and public service during the Pasco County Commission’s April 23 meeting.
The association executive reminded commissioners that the Tri-County Trail connection won the 2014 Future of the Region development infrastructure award from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.
“Today, the future of the region is here and the Tri-County connection on the cusp of completion,” Afonso said.
“Commissioner Kathryn Starkey has been and continues to be, the champion of this connection and for Pasco County,” said Afonso, whose association uses advocacy and education to encourage more people to bicycle in Florida.
“I personally want to thank the commissioner for her persistence to make this vision a reality.
“Her experience, tenacity and public service record are admirable and inspirational.
“I remember a few years back, when the Florida Department of Transportation held a Coast-to-Coast Connector Trail public meeting in Webster,” Afonso said.
Starkey fought for Pasco County to host a meeting, she said.
“I also recall her determination to fill the trail gaps in Pasco County, ASAP, to ensure those using the trail will boost the local economies where shops and restaurants are accessible, and ultimately to have residents and visitors on the trail embrace Pasco as a friendly destination and a community to enjoy.
“I look forward to the ribbon cutting for the Tri-County connection. I also look forward to riding from my city of Oldsmar, come into Pasco County, have a lunch and then going back,” the association executive said.
Starkey was pleased by the recognition.
“I am honored that you guys thought of me. My path to my trail work started when I was on the Pinellas Anclote River Basin Board and then I was also doing some work within the county as a civic activist.
“When they were building the Suncoast, they built a trail along the side.
“My husband said, ‘You know, the trail and the park really should connect to that trail.”
Starkey agreed and began talking with various departments about connecting that trail.
She said when she talked to each group individually, they said they wanted it. But, they also claimed that another group did not.
So, all of the parties came together for a meeting.
“In the first 15 minutes, we had that trail connected, and then in the next 45 minutes, we figured out the funding. We split that, one third, one third, one third. So we connected the Starkey Trail to the Suncoast Trail and, because of that, then I got notice from state officials and that’s how I got put on the state’s Greenways and Trails Council. From there, that’s when I learned of the state’s plan to make a connected system in Florida, and from there, I started working on the Starkey Gap, and that was when Gov. (Jeb) Bush was in office.
“Sometimes, government goes way too slow.
“We’re really glad that gap is under construction. We’ve also worked on off-road trails in the county.
“I think trails add so much value to the quality of life to communities. I recall being at a meeting in Tallahassee when Visit Florida gave us a presentation. They said there were more people asking for trails maps than golf courses. Trails have really overtaken the recreational desires of people coming to Florida,” Starkey said.
Starkey has served for years on the State Greenways and Trails Council through appointments from Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Charlie Crist and Gov. Rick Scott.
She frequently points out the need to connect segments of trail, and to ensure that those connections are considered during discussions of potential changes to zoning.
The new 2.4 mile Starkey Gap Bicycle and Pedestrian Trail that will link the Starkey and Suncoast Trails in Pasco County to the Pinellas Trail is expected to be completed this summer.
Once the segment is finished, it will provide connectivity to a trail that’s more than 100 miles and continues to grow.
Published May 01, 2019