New Port Richey discusses trail system options

The New Port Richey City Council discussed concepts for extending its trail system and increasing connectivity with surrounding communities.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Increasing the number of trails and growing connections to neighboring communities is an ongoing, long-range goal for the city.

How to turn concept into reality, especially in built-out areas of New Port Richey, is the ever-present challenge. The City Council discussed its trail system again at an Oct. 6 workshop. Representatives with S&ME Inc., a Tampa-based geotechnical engineering firm, presented the New Port Richey Trail Feasibility Study, presenting the council ideas for extending pathways.

“Trails are things that people always want and a lot of that is about the connectivity and the mobility and how you move people safely throughout the community,” said Jay Hood, director of Landscape Architecture with S&ME.

Hood, along with partner Carrie Read, Landscape Architecture Group leader, explained the study as an opportunity to identify gaps in the city’s existing trail system and how to get better move trail users to New Port Richey destination points.

Elaine Smith, the city’s Parks and Recreation director, has been working closely with S&ME and noted that the study presented last week is still in the draft process. Last Tuesday’s workshop discussion was meant to show the council its findings and receive feedback as to what could be prioritized and what could be tweaked or scrapped.

The study included a variety of potential trail improvements or extensions that would improve the city’s connectivity in all directions. Some of the priorities to explore were a connection of a trail on Massachusetts Avenue to DeCubellis Road, which would connect to the Starkey Wilderness Park Trail, creating an east-west trail option along portions of Main Street and creating a north-south connector along Grand Boulevard.

While the council is unanimous in its desire to improve local trail options, it was clear that more needs to be fleshed out. This includes interactions with the county and its Metropolitan Planning Organization and exploring grant funding options.

“I think it’s important when we’re doing projects like this and trying to come up with funding that we’re working closely with the county and the MPO board because they might have their own vision and we’d like to tie into that vision,” said Councilman Jeff Starkey. “We don’t want to both ask for the same thing.

“The sooner we can get our ideas on the radar the better.”

City Manager Debbie Manns told council the city is actively researching available grant funding for trails and that staff intends to submit applications.

Mayor Rob Marlowe said he appreciated the study’s concept of creating a connected loop around downtown.

“You definitely need to look at what we’ve talked about from the cut from Grand Boulevard over to Madison Street, extending the existing trail on Madison south of Main Street,” he said. “The idea was to give people at least the option to loop around the downtown because the downtown gets very crazy busy. Conceptually it’s good. I would look at that and I agree we need the tie-in.

Increasing trail traffic to destination points, such as the commercial center of downtown, is attractive but potentially too challenging, Councilman Chopper Davis said.

“I don’t know if that’s going to be a trail on Main Street,” he said. “I agree about getting (people) in there, but I can’t see them on Main Street between the bridge and Madison.”

“That’s going to be a non-starter,” Marlowe said. “Somebody’s going to get killed.”