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Pinellas Trail extension work complete

June 15 will be the official opening day of the Elfers Spur across the Anclote River, connecting to the North Anclote River Nature Park.

By CANDACE RONDEAUX
Published June 5, 2004

TARPON SPRINGS - Hikers and bikers soon will have a new place to stretch their legs in North Pinellas County.

Nearly two years after city and county officials proposed to build an extension of the Pinellas Trail across the Anclote River, officials say construction on the Elfers Spur is complete.

The county plans to hold a dedication ceremony for the spur at 9:30 a.m. June 15 to kickoff its official opening.

The 3/4-mile-long stretch traverses a 266-foot bridge over the river. It was built on an abandoned railroad corridor and connects the Pinellas Trail to the North Anclote River Nature Park.

The park, at 550 Old Dixie Highway, features trails, a fishing pier, a canoe launching area and restrooms.

Construction on the Elfers Spur cost about $551,000, said county parks and operations manager Leah Hoffman. But it was money well-spent, she said.

"It's an enhancement for the community," Hoffman said. "This gives them another opportunity to stop along the trail. If you want to picnic there, if you want to birdwatch you can do it."

The county and city of Tarpon Springs worked together on the project. The city owns the land where the trail is. The county paid for the engineering design and construction.

The Elfers Spur extension is part of the county's longstanding plan to upgrade the 34.5-mile Pinellas Trail. Within the next two to three years, the county plans to extend the trail east along Keystone Road to connect to an existing stretch of trail on East Lake Road, making the trail 47 miles long.

The trail, officially known as the Fred E. Marquis Pinellas Trail, is a popular favorite with runners and cycling enthusiasts and was given special recognition by the National Park Service last year, Hoffman said. Last year, nearly 753,000 used the trail, according to the county.

Hundreds are expected to use the park today as the county celebrates National Trails day. Scheduled to start at 8 a.m., the day-long event will feature information on how to become a volunteer trail ranger and bicycle safety lessons from experts at several points along the trail. Part of the day's activities also include an 8 a.m. bicycle rodeo and a walk on the trail scheduled to start at the old train depot on Safford Avenue in Tarpon Springs.

- Candace Rondeaux can be reached at 727 771-4307 or rondeaux@sptimes.com

[Last modified June 5, 2004, 01:17:20]


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