Persistence may finally pay off for residents in southern Hillsborough County who have been pushing for a nature trail for nearly two decades.
County commissioners will consider a funding request today for $2.5 million to build the first phase of the South Coast Greenway, a 10-mile trail west of Interstate 75 that could link the Little Manatee River Preserve with Gibsonton.
The trail will offer a safe path for residents to bike and walk to shopping centers and schools, and will link the area's nature preserves for residents and visitors wanting to explore the area.
Commissioners should approve the funding with an eye toward building subsequent phases.
"It's beyond time for the county to financially commit to the project," Commissioner Ken Hagan told the Tribune's Mike Salinero.
The southern reaches of the county are ripe for growth as the area recovers from the economic recession. Amazon might locate a 1-million-square-foot warehouse that will employ as many as 1,000 workers, and housing developments stymied by the recession are coming back to life.
If built, the first phase will connect State Road 674 and 19th Avenue Northeast. It would connect to a developer-funded segment near Waterset and bisect bike lanes planned for Shell Point Road.
Subsequent phases to the north and south have the potential to bring communities together in an area that has grown in fits and spurts over the past decade.
In fact, residents of south Hillsborough often complain that their communities are overlooked for the more densely populated northern regions of the county.
The South Coast Greenway represents a project that is good for the residents, good for the environment, and good for the future of south Hillsborough County.