PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Pasco County has been planning the $3.8 million Anclote Trail for years, but even after three public hearings, at least one Pasco homeowner in Holiday insists that trail planners got it all wrong.
“I just think it could be done better so that the money that is being spent is spent in a way that most people can benefit from, instead of bicyclists and tourists,” said Nancy Thompson.
Thompson claims the proposed route past Gulfside Elementary, Paul R. Smith Middle School and Anclote High School skirts neighborhoods that could have benefited from it for commuting to local shopping plazas.
“I just think keeping it next to the road would have really benefited everybody,” Thompson said.
Pasco County insists the final 4.5 mile route that links the Pinellas Trail with Anclote River Park is the product of much discussion and is the best way to go, regardless of Thompson’s misgivings.
“We’ve taken the needs of her community, her voice into consideration,” Tobin said.
Thompson argues that the route past schools will provide a temptation to dozens of registered sex offenders who live within a mile or two of the proposed trail.
“Unfortunately, Holiday has a high number of sex offenders,” Thompson said. “I don’t want to put them in a position where it’s tempting for them and I don’t want to risk the children’s safety.”
Deputy School Superintendent Ray Gadd disagrees with Thompson’s assessment.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Gadd said. Tobin believes it will increase safety for school kids who are already in harm’s way for other reasons, because they don’t have the benefit of sidewalks in surrounding neighborhoods.
“By having the trail and having more people on that trail, will shed more light in that area so we actually see more eyes making that trail safer, rather than more dangerous,” Tobin said.
As the trail heads north, it meanders through environmental lands and skirts nature parks. While that may seem scenic to many, Thompson sees trouble there, too.
“The problem I have with going through nature preserves, if we continue to do so, we won’t have any wildlife to see,” Thompson said.
Tobin clams some of the environmental lands the Anclote trail will run through are already suffering from illegal trespassers.
“Currently we have ATV action, bonfires, we have littering that goes on in those areas.” Tobin said. “By having more people use that trail, that’s going to shed more light in this area and we believe it’s going to reduce the danger in some of those environmental lands.”
Whatever pros or cons there may be, Pasco County has now settled on the final alignment for the nearly five mile long trail. Construction is set to start next year.
“We believe this is going to be a better alternative for all of the kids using that trail,” said Tobin.
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