© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pasco County wants residents' feedback on a proposed 37-mile trail that cuts across the county

Map showing the stretch of the Orange Belt Trail, from the Trinity area working its way north and east toward the Pasco-Hernando County Line
Pasco County Government
/
Courtesy
The Orange Belt Trail would connect to the Coast-to-Coast, Starkey, Suncoast, and Withlacoochee trails in Pasco County.

The Orange Belt Trail would run from the Trinity area in the south, north toward the Trilby region near Hernando County.

Pasco County is proposing a new, multi-purpose trail nearly 40 miles long that would stretch from the southern to northeast end of the county.

The Orange Belt Trail would run from the Trinity area in the south, north toward the Trilby region near Hernando County.

It would also connect to the Coast-to-Coast, Starkey, Suncoast, and Withlacoochee trails in the county as well, making the journey more accessible and creating a broader connected trail network.

Dacia Mitchell serves on Pasco County's Bike and Trail Pedestrian Committee. She says the trail would be helpful in providing a safer route for bicyclists, rather than traveling on potentially dangerous roadways.

"What this piece of the trail will do for them, is make a consistent connection that's safe,” Mitchell said. “What it does locally for the people in our county is makes additional free, equitable, inclusive space that's an amenity to everyone that lives in Pasco County."

According to a news release from the county, the trail would primarily be intended for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, with certain areas being available for equestrian traffic.

“I'm a mom of six. My kids are little; the only place we will ride [by bicycle] is on a trail, so having an accessible trail system for us is vital,” Mitchell said.

The proposed trail is being funded through the county’s Penny for Pasco tax, which was just approved by voters for another 15-year life cycle.

Sam Beneck, the trail’s project manager, says a final cost for the project hasn’t yet been determined, since more analysis is needed. And apart from the tax, Beneck said the county will apply for grant opportunities to supplement the cost of the project, so Penny for Pasco can be used for other improvements.

“I'm not a tax person, so when I do I do agree to pay taxes I vote for, it's because I want my money going toward building the life that I want to see from my community,” Mitchell said.

If approved, Beneck said the project will undergo analysis and more public meetings over the next two years, as well as a firmer design conceptualization.

But, he said, some parts of the trail may be used sooner.

“The county is working on elements of this that we can progress, independent of the study where there's an independent need,” Beneck said. “And maybe these all get put together to become that ultimate 37-mile corridor.”

He also said he expects feedback to potentially change the trajectory of the trail, depending on resident concerns.

“A trail may fit real well in that existing use, or in some cases, it's agricultural land, and in some cases that rail corridor is now neighborhoods and places where maybe the trail needs to find a different route,” Beneck said.

The county is fielding public comment on the proposed trail, with two in-person public engagement sessions set for Dec. 6 at the Hampton Inn in Odessa, and Dec. 7 at the Dade City Garden Club. Both presentations will start at 6 p.m.

“We want their input,” Beneck said. “We really want them to feel an ownership of this trail, and we want to deliver to them the project that they want to see.”

Residents can also submit feedback online by Dec. 31 by visiting the Orange Belt Trail website.

As a host and reporter for WUSF, my goal is to unearth and highlight issues that wouldn’t be covered otherwise. If I truly connect with my audience as I relay to them the day’s most important stories and make them think about an issue past the point that I’ve said it in a newscast, that’s a success in my eyes.