Regarding “Our new friendship trail bridge” (Our Views, Sept. 11): The Tampa Tribune has consistently supported recreational trails since the effort to “Save the Gandy” began in 1997. That early support, the success of the Pinellas Trail, favorable public opinion and work by our public officials and capable staffs in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties made the Friendship TrailBridge possible. It’s nice to think that the Friendship TrailBridge was inspiration for the Courtney Campbell pedestrian/recreation bridge about to be completed.
A lesson learned is that citizens can make a difference if the cause is right, but saving and building bridges cannot be done by the private sector alone. It took involvement by our public officials to save the “old” Gandy Bridge and create the Friendship TrailBridge, and as your editorial reports, $14.6 million federal dollars to build the Courtney Campbell (State Road 60) bridge.
Our organization of citizens, the Friendship Trail Corporation, dissolved with the closing of the Friendship TrailBridge. However, we ended with two goals. One, we advocate that future bridges be built with consideration of incorporating a pedestrian/recreation lane where appropriate and feasible. Two, we hope those with the ability to make it happen can make our dream a reality for Tampa Bay to have the “Trail of Two Cities.” It would be an approximate 26-mile connection from downtown Tampa to downtown St. Petersburg. I believe that the term was coined independently by three people: Lori Cohen (now deceased), Dinah Miller and your own Steve Otto.
Toward that end, several projects already completed or planned include the purchase of rights of way, trail heads and properties by the city of Tampa and a “causeway enhancement” project on the Pinellas side. Other studies had been made but may be currently shelved due to the closing of the Friendship TrailBridge and economic downturn. The Gandy bridges over Tampa Bay would be the necessary link, and there are problems to be solved by our officials. But with a willingness and the opportunity to have our area be the home of the “Trail of Two Cities,” is there anyone out there with the motivation and position to be effective?
The writer is the former executive director of the Friendship Trail Corp.