TREASURE ISLAND – Nearly 100 people attended a presentation to hear about a potential bike and walking trail that would connect the popular Pinellas Trail in St. Petersburg to the Treasure Island beaches.
The plan is the last remnants of the Treasure Island causeway project, which is where much of the funds would come from.
Volkert and Associates, the consulting firm overseeing the potential project, had various representatives at the meeting to discuss the four potential plans.
“It’s about getting people downtown,” Angelo Rao, a Volkert and Associates representative said. Rao also noted that 90,000 a month use the Pinellas Trail. The hope of Treasure Island officials is to get a chunk of that number to veer off to Treasure Island.
A few in attendance scoffed that the 90,000 figure was grossly inflated.
But how many people would come downtown is the key. Several residents questioned if enough people would use the trail via St. Petersburg to stop and shop and spend money in Treasure Island to justify the trail, which would be built in incremental stages.
However, during one question-and-answer portion of the meeting, it was revealed one of the key elements of the project, that St. Petersburg was going to build a connector trail from the proposed Treasure Island project to the Pinellas Trail, has not been finalized.
St. Petersburg city officials are discussing a potential link but nothing definitive has been set in stone. This was a key selling point of the proponents of the trail as it would create the lone connection from a Pinellas County beach to the Pinellas Trail south of Dunedin.
Four potential trail paths were proposed, all with various degrees of positives and negatives. One proposed path that would use 107th Avenue, changing the current four-lane road to just one lane each way of vehicular traffic and one lane each of one way for bike/pedestrian traffic, was largely regarded by the residents in attendance as too dangerous.
Residents complained the clock tower has created a severe traffic hazard that has nearly rendered the roadway too dicey for vehicles, much less pedestrians.
There were two paths that seemed to get the most positive reaction – one that would use 104th Avenue, connecting to the beach south of the current Allied Insurance lot. Another would use a series of paths including 108th, 107th and 104th avenues.
Based on ballots cast by those in attendance the path that will use 104th Avenue will be pursued as the option of choice.
Not all was rosy and positive. Roughly as many negative comments from the gallery were registered about the project as there were positive. Among the complaints were the cost, inconvenience, safety concerns and crime.
One citizen suggested that the crime rate for residents who live along the Pinellas Trail is higher for those who do not. By constructing a connector from the Pinellas Trail to Treasure Island the citizen suggested, would be inviting criminals and providing a path for that type of element to prey upon Treasure Island citizens and visitors.
Further discussion of the trail will be addressed at a future city workshop session.