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Neighborhood Report: MacDill

South Tampa trail to cross MacDill

Neighborhood groups applaud an accord with the military for the 2-mile paved path that will hug the base's northern fence line. It's a critical link in the city's planned trail system across South Tampa.

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 17, 2003

A crucial puzzle piece in city plans to build a trail system across South Tampa is falling into place.

After years of effort, MacDill Air Force Base and the city are a month away from an agreement that would allow a paved trail across the base's northern fence line, city parks director Ross Ferlita said.

The city is cobbling together a network for bicyclists and pedestrians that will connect Friendship Trail Bridge, Picnic Island and Bayshore Boulevard. The MacDill piece, which the city would use as a transportation easement, would jog 2 miles from Bayshore to Manhattan Avenue.

"This is a very critical link," Ferlita said.

A MacDill spokesman said he could not immediately comment.

But the base has already moved its fence in preparation, said Jim Valentine, special services manager for the parks department. In 1998, the city and the base signed a "memorandum of understanding" that included a future trail.

There is a "good possibility" a section from Bayshore to Dale Mabry Highway will be built by year's end, Ferlita said. The cost: About $425,000.

The trail can't be built west of Dale Mabry until the city buys land from several private property owners. A fiber-optic cable prevented MacDill from giving up much land in that area, Valentine said.

The easement will be up to 50 feet wide and for the most part hugs MacDill's fence line. The proposed trail will be 10 to 12 feet wide.

Once it reaches Manhattan, it will branch in two directions: North toward Gandy Boulevard, and west to Picnic Island. The city is working on land deals in both directions.

Neighborhood groups are applauding the progress.

"Biking and walking . . . is what Ballast Point and Bayshore Beautiful are all about," said Gene Wells, president of the Ballast Point Neighborhood Association.

But residents south of Gandy won't be the only ones to enjoy it.

A trail "lets us share Ballast Point," Wells said.

-- Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or .

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