NEW PORT RICHEY — “Deplorable” was the nicest word Mayor Rob Marlowe said came to his mind. He had just braved driving his vehicle along a short, unpaved section of Plathe Road that extends west of Rowan Road to the entrance to the city’s James E. Grey Preserve. He shared accounts of his perilous journey during a recent city council work session. Other drivers have faced great temptation to hurl much nastier invectives as they bounced along Plathe potholes when trying to reach the 80-acre wilderness area in the middle of the city. Poor access has stunted growth in visitors to the preserve straddling the Pithlachascotee River, city officials fear.
Council members are considering whether to ask Pasco County to give the city ownership of the section of Plathe Road. At the least the city could possibly tap some funds to pay for paving Plathe west of Rowan or share in paving costs. Many people still don’t know how to find Grey Preserve, Councilwoman Judy deBella Thomas commented at the council work session. The addition in February of a playground helped double traffic to the park. Rotary Club of New Port Richey had donated the facility. Yet Elaine Smith, the city’s parks and recreation director, also believes the preserve could attract far more visitors with better access. The only other route to the park, from the end of Louisiana Avenue, has deteriorated as well. Many people have yet to discover the “80 acres of Old Florida nature,” as the city describes the preserve. It’s part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, with 140 different kinds of birds. In addition, it offers “spectacular viewing opportunities for deer, wild boar, turtles and manatees.” Other features include a canoe launch area, half a mile of boardwalk through a floodplain forest, fishing pier, special event pavilion, pavilions with grills, two miles of hiking trails, bathrooms and parking area. Besides vehicular traffic, Grey Preserve might gain a new access point for pedestrians and bicyclists, council members discussed. Funds from the Penny for Pasco sales tax could help buy land to create a link south of Congress Street where it ends at Louisiana Avenue. Councilman Bill Phillips described it as a “side-door entrance” for Grey Preserve.