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Gates to Friendship remain unlocked

The hours are officially 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but you can again go anytime.

By Elisabeth Dyer
Published October 19, 2007


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Early morning joggers, cyclists and walkers can once again use the Friendship Trail Bridge at any time.

Complaints abounded after gates to the bridge were locked from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. this month.

The bridge stretches across Old Tampa Bay between Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, and the parks department in Pinellas is responsible for maintenance.

Officially, trail hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. said Leah Hoffman, parks and recreation operations manager for Pinellas. But the security company maintaining the trail until Oct. 1never closed the gates, as the contract required.

When a new security company took over this month and locked the gates, complaints came from power walkers, cyclists, skaters and military personnel who use the bridge to train.

"To minimize some of the concerns, we decided to compromise and keep the gates unlocked," Hoffman said. The bridge is not monitored after hours.

That was good news to Rebekah Heppner of South Tampa, who walks with friends across the bridge at 6 a.m. to beat the heat and to accommodate her work day.

The 2.6-mile recreational trail, an 83-year-old bridge jointly owned by the cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg, averages about 600,000 users a year.

Before it was the Friendship Trail, the old Gandy Bridge got its reprieve in 1999, just before it was to be knocked down. State money to demolish it instead went into fixing it up.

Operating costs last year totaled $133,330. Proposed capital improvements, including pilings under the bridge costing $4.6- to $5-million, are set to begin in the next several months.

Elisabeth Dyer can be reached at edyer@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3321.

[Last modified October 18, 2007, 06:37:18]


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